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Landspout vs Tornado. Is there a difference?

7-28-14_Nader
Photo Credit: @AlanRaymond

Yesterday’s “tornadoes” in Colorado have some wondering what really occurred. Some have classified them as tornadoes. Others say they’re landspouts. So who is right on this matter?

Well the quick answer is both as a landspout is still a “type” of tornado;however, they are not exactly created equal. The process in which both form are completely different.

A tornado is formed by a supercell (rotating thunderstorm). To keep things brief, the dynamics of the storm begin to rotate and eventually forms a wall cloud that begins to rotate then the circulation makes it to the ground. Thus, you have a tornado.

A landspout, on the other hand, does not have all the same ingredients that a supercell tornado does. A landspout begins by horizontal tubes of air that get tilted upright by an updraft of a thunderstorm. Usually there are no wall clouds that are associated with landspouts. The look of the funnel is usually narrow and hard to identify until it starts picking up debris.

Landspouts typically are short lived and weak. However, some landspouts have been given the rating of EF-2.

To recap yesterday’s events, there were three reports of tornadoes (according to the Storm Prediction Center) yesterday and the NWS is heading out to survey damage today. Colorado is generally known for low precip tornadoes so the way in which these formed yesterday is “still to be determined”.

One response to “Landspout vs Tornado. Is there a difference?

  1. So , it looks like tornadoes can also happen with outflow boundaries, like the Landspout described in the article. But landspout seem to have a distinct development process from that of Supercell Tornadoes.

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