All Weather News

Cold Air Funnels: A Really Cool Atmospheric Phenomena

29 Sep 2014, 12:22 pm

cold air funnel

Over the weekend, there were a few cold air funnels in Missouri. And while they may look as menacing as a tornado, they’re far more benign than their nefarious cousin.

So how exactly do they form? Well, according to the National Weather Service in Louisville, Ky., these types of meteorological features most often show up under rain showers and weak thunderstorms. They’re also far more inclined to develop when very cold air is throughout the entire atmospheric column — a far cry from supercell-induced vorticies.

Climatologically speaking, cold air funnels are most likely in the fall and spring. This is the time of year when the sun is able to heat the lowest layer of the atmosphere — also know as the planetary boundary layer. As the PBL heats, it interacts with cooler air aloft. That temperature discontinuity helps to fire off showers and weak thunderstorms.  Unfortunately, there’s no definitive research to indicate why these brief funnels form. Although they’re unlikely to give your home an unwanted relocation, they have been known to give people a fright.

These funnels rarely reach the ground, but the few that do have produced winds up to EF-0 strength. Nevertheless no significant damage has been reported with these whirlwinds.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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