skip to main content

Danger Zone: Waterspouts

3 minutes

(Describer) Under a round logo of a wave, title: Ocean Today.

[dramatic music]

(Describer) In computer animation, a view speeds down a tunnel of clouds and water. Viewed from outside, it spins and touches the surface. Title: Waterspouts.

(Describer) A real one is shown.

(male narrator) They are sometimes seen as threatening funnel clouds, descending from stormy skies. Others can be nearly invisible, like a ghostly spiral of wind skimming the sea surface. These eerie columns of rotating air are known as waterspouts, commonly defined as tornadoes over water.

(Describer) A spiral spins on the surface.

Waterspouts usually develop over warm, tropical ocean waters. They're spotted in the Florida Keys more than anywhere else. They've also been seen over the Great Lakes. Scientists that study waterspouts generally put them in two categories-- fair weather and tornadic. The tornadic waterspouts may often begin as tornadoes over land, and then move over water. They also form in severe thunderstorms, over a body of water. They can wreak havoc with high winds, hail, and dangerous lightning. Fair weather waterspouts develop in calmer weather. They form only over open water, developing at the surface and climbing skyward towards the clouds. The size of all waterspouts can range from just a few feet to several hundred feet wide. Research shows that fair-weather waterspouts exhibit a five-stage life cycle. Stage one is the formation of a disc on the water surface, known as a dark spot. Stage two is a spiral pattern on the water surface. Stage three is a formation of a spray ring. Stage four is where the waterspout becomes a visible funnel. The life cycle ends with stage five, where the waterspout decays.

(Describer) It gets wider and fades away.

Like many forces in nature, waterspouts can be both beautiful and dangerous. They've been known to overturn boats, damage large ships, and put lives in jeopardy. If you spot one, exercise extreme caution and keep your distance. Don't leave your safety up in the air. Try to avoid these turbulent twisters.

(Describer) Title: Narrator: Jerome Hruska. Logos are shown for the Smithsonian and NOAA. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Transcript Options


Now Playing As: Captioned (English) (change)

Report a Problem

They are sometimes seen as threatening funnel clouds descending from stormy skies. Others can be nearly invisible, like a ghostly spiral of wind skimming the sea surface. These eerie columns of rotating air are known as waterspouts and are commonly defined as tornadoes over water. Waterspouts usually develop over warm tropical ocean waters. Part of the "Danger Zone" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Danger Zone
Episode 1
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 2
2 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 4
3 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 5
3 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 6
3 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 7
3 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 8
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 9
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Danger Zone
Episode 10
3 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12