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Winter Waterspout; Snowspout

Winter Waterspout; Snowspout
Photo Information
Copyright: Jay Meeuwig (Shoot_Score) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 445 W: 302 N: 670] (2376)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-01-17
Categories: Ocean, Sky
Camera: Fuji Finepix S7000
Details: Tripod: Yes
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Date Submitted: 2007-01-17 21:59
Viewed: 21196
Points: 17
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Formerly: Sea Smoke Funnel

Today it was extremely cold here. The temperature was -28C with a windchill of -36 to -39C... BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

First I wrote:
Along the coast I saw sea smoke aka evaporation fog* being whipped along by strong winds. Not only that, I noticed a novel phenomenon, viz. several sea smoke funnels that traveled along the horizon. Some lasted less than a minute, other for 3 to 5 as the traveled West to East. It appeared that the sea smoke was getting sucked up thru this funnel to the clouds above. Likely the warmer vapours were simply rising in "bundles". If we have any experts among us, I would love to learn more about this phenomenon.

I have since found:
Environment Canada: Winter waterspouts ;
""This is a rare picture of a "winter waterspout". Only four known pictures of this type of waterspout exist. Until recently, little was known about the winter waterspout. Winter waterspouts occur when very cold arctic air moves over a large, relatively warmer open body of water. Notice the two bright irregularly shaped lines on either side of the waterspout base. The "spikes" protruding from these lines are called "steam devils". Steam devils are whirls of steam similar in nature to "dust devils". On this day, the steam devils were "feeding" into the base of the waterspout.These steam devils are speculated to be a source of rotation for this type of waterspout.""
Wikipedia: Snowspout;
""A Snowspout is an extremely rare meteorological phenomenon in which a vortex resembling that of a waterspout forms under the base of a snow squall. The term snowspout is used to differentiate between a common warm season waterspout and the rare winter season waterspout which will often form in temperatures of -18C (-0.4F) or colder. Very little is known about this rare phenomenon and only six known pictures of this event exist to date, four of which were taken in Ontario, Canada.""

In this shot I captured one of these. Based on location of known reefs and islands I estimate the funnel to be 4.5 to 5 kilometers from where I took the photo. The island seen left of centre is the Isle of Man, locally called Thumbcap, which is about 2.25 to 2.5 km away.

NOTE: At the same time I posted here I have included a WS where I tried to make adjustments to the contrast, even though that really destroys the "smokey" way the seafog looked as it was being whipped along by the strong Westerly wind. This post - foggy and smokey as it may appear - is what it looked like. Enjoy... BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

* evaporation fogs form when cold air passes over warmer water. Other names are steam fog, Arctic sea smoke and frontal fog. All fogs of this type are either from the mixing air of different temperature or from adding water vapor by evaporation.

Adanac, JPlumb, horia, lovenature, loot, BobH has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To horia: Canuck luck!Shoot_Score 3 01-27 01:28
To loot: Certified?Shoot_Score 1 01-19 22:19
To Adanac: Sea smokeShoot_Score 2 01-18 21:29
To lovenature: Cool eh!Shoot_Score 1 01-18 20:54
To whjb: Getting cold just looking at this picture...Shoot_Score 1 01-18 13:00
To JPlumb: Winter Waterspout aka Snowspout.Shoot_Score 1 01-18 12:44
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Critiques [Translate]

Hey Jay, did you have a snow squall happening. You might be number 7 on the list of known snowspout pictures. Check it out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowspout

G'day, John

Hi Jay,
So the water is that much warmer than the air that you reverse tornados. Hot moist air rising through cold air, rather than cold air dropping through hot air, Ah maybe this is a big guess. Anyway thanks for sharing this strange one with us.
PS your still making me think, and now it's starting to hurt.
Out of points damn be back tomorrow.

  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2007-01-18 9:18]
  • [+]

Hi again Jay

This is a fantastic post!
Not only it is a great seascape, but it also present a unique phenomenon, something one doesn't get the chance to see and raed about all-day-every-day on TN...si my hat's off to you!
I assume you took the picture from the inside (of anything) because if you went out to take photos on -28C...they should give you an award, but at the same time lock you up in a nut-house :)))))

The note here is very interesting to read and very educative, too.

A wonderful work!
Bravo and TFS

  • Great 
  • whjb Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 51 W: 26 N: 172] (683)
  • [2007-01-18 10:17]
  • [+]

Hi Jay,

I am getting cold just looking at this picture. It is moody and unique. Cannot add to what it actually is, but sometimes one can enjoy without knowing. Will be back to see if any experts pitched.


Hi Jay
this is a really cool photograph .... no pun intended :) I bet you don't see a waterspout everyday, especially in the winter. You can tell it's very cold the way the mist is coming off the water. Buurrrr.
TFS Janice

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-01-18 21:40]

Hello Jay

You have captured this phenomenon well.It looks so cold ,and you have managed to capture a good DOF.An excellent documentation photograph congratulations.TFS


  • Great 
  • loot Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5524 W: 722 N: 4163] (11276)
  • [2007-01-19 0:41]
  • [+]

Hi Jay

Firstly, thanks for the very informative and useful note. It is great to learn something about all these fascinating natural phenomena you find and post so that we can benefit from your extremely chilled experiences. I notice Horia mentioned something about giving you an award for braving the -28°C conditions, but he also mentioned the real state of affairs for I too think that it should have been a ‘certificate’ to pronounce your mental state of health (cuckoo…eh, I mean chuckle).

This is great work and reeks of the utmost dedication to your photographic hobby and in the unrelenting spirit of a discoverer. The photograph clearly displays the conditions you referred to. The exposure was well managed and the details were brilliantly captured.

Very well done and TFS.

PS. Do you have any idea or theory on the little black item in front of the island. Perhaps an "Al Qaeda" submarine, no? Perhaps that explains the 'radio controlled' arctic skua look-a-like hovering above just below the clouds. Shucks, talk about paranoia.

Coming from the midwest, I have often seen tornadoes, and this appears to be very similar
in appearance!!
Good timing on your part to capture this one on camera!!

You did well to get such a clear and clean shot of this phenomenon.....
Nice composition.
Very nice presentation!

  • Good 
  • BobH Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 40 W: 8 N: 192] (650)
  • [2007-11-13 2:11]


No critique of the photo, which is a rare treat. My comments are about the phenomenon itself- the cause and naming. I've seen and shot many of these and have just posted a composite of 3 shots on this site, with some description. Take a look at it and read the comment- if people want, I'll post more. Waterspouts and snowspouts are misleading names, since there is no direct involvement of either snow or water. They are like dust devils in the cold- less dense surface air spiraling up through the overlying cooler and denser air layer, much like water draining down a bathtub. I don't see them more than a few minutes after sunrise, so I think the sunlight destabilizes the inversion and allows for less organized convection, preventing the spiraling behavior.

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