This Labor Day, habitants and beach goers on Singer Island got to witness a rare weather event. A waterspout formed at 10 a.m. and lasted about 10 minutes followed by another one that dissipated in even less time. A waterspout is a spiraling column of air and mist over the ocean. They are 18,000-20,000 feet high and classified as either tornadic or fair weather. Tornadic waterspouts are similar to land tornadoes and associated with bad storms, high wind, and hail. Fair weather waterspouts, like the one spotted on Singer Island, are not associated with storms, form with little wind, and are much more common. Interestingly, while tornadic spouts drop from the sky, fair weather spouts develop on the surface of the water and form upward. By the time a funnel is visible, it has reached its fullest potential, and will move very little until it diffuses. Waterspouts typically do not make their way inland, especially not fair weather ones.
Waterspouts occur in tropical regions. Most are recorded in the Gulf of Mexico, western Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Florida is the most prone area of the U.S. for spouts and the Florida Keys is the most popular place in the world to see the phenomenon. Waterspouts are nearly impossible to predict, and generally only last a few minutes, which is why they are so rare. Some experienced sailors have tricks to tell when a spout could possibly be coming; mainly looking for big, dark spots in the water where the vortex will form and paying attention to sudden wind changes. If you are not at sea, you are safe from fair weather watersprouts. If you're lucky enough to see one in person, it is a spectacular presentation of mother nature.