8 Facts about Water Spouts at Sea

Water spouts or the sea tornadoes are a unique phenomenon witnessed almost in every coastal region of the world. Looking like a smaller version of a hurricane, water spouts are quite common and rather non destructive considering the frequency of their occurrences.



They have occurred for centuries now but still continue to intrigue anyone who chances upon them. Here is an overview of some important facts about water spouts.


1.       The Vertical Funnel

Water spouts are unique structures formed over the sea or ocean surface. Reason for these water spouts at sea is believed to a be vertical wind sheer- a wind force that changes direction as it goes higher. This leads to formation of a vertical funnel which we call a water spout.

A typical water spout at sea is a like narrow tornado that can range a few feet in width and a few feet to several hundred feet in height.  They are often very narrow water structures but not necessarily. A very large water spouts have been reported on different occasions.


2.       Tornadic and Non-Tornadic Water Spouts

They can be of two types of water spouts- tornadic and non- tornadic. While the former resemble their land counterparts in terms of formation and destruction capacity, they are also rarer. However, the non tornadic types can be spotted more often on sea.

Water Spouts can occur at any place all over the coastal regions of the world. There is no particular place where they are more likely to happen. However, despite that fact, there are regions in the world that witness water spouts more often than others.


3.       It’s Not Sea Water inside

For a very long time, scientists were of the opinion that the revolving mass of water in a water spout was in fact water of the sea. However, studies have revealed that what appears to be sea water floating up in air menacingly is actually spray of cloud water. The clouds gather and condensation of water leads to formation of a twirling mass of water droplets.


4.       Wind Velocity

A water spout and its associated wind moves at an average speed of about 50 miles an hour. That could account for their low destructive capacity since the wind velocity is not high enough to gather too much mass. But sometimes the wind velocity can go as high as 150 miles an hour.

A water spout is more than likely to stay on the water and be typically harmless to sea farers. However, sometimes a water spout may transcend over to land and turn into a full scale tornado that can run havoc on lives and property.


5.       Sea Water + Parent Cloud

Even though the wind velocity and force of waterspouts is generally regarded as rather bleak to allow much carriage, sometimes the whirlwind occurs with such force that the water from the sea maybe lifted even up to the parent cloud.

As such, all the associated salts, fish and other sea flora and fauna may be carried up to the cloud and later fall as every kind of rain- fish rain, salt water rain, rain with bits of sea weed etc. This would be a baffling scene for anyone of witnesses it but little they know, it has such a simple scientific explanation to it.


6.       The Earliest One

The earliest record of a water spout on sea goes as back as 1456 when a whirlwind of water was spotted on the sea near Ancona in Italy.


7.       Can Be Destructive as Well

Even though a water spout on sea is generally considered non destructive, it has an immense potential of being destructive. Like a tornado, the most destructive aspect of a water spout is its ability to carry anything that comes in its way with it.

Sand particles, small floating structures, humans, animals and sometimes even small boats maybe carried along with a water spout.


8.        Difficult to Predict

Owing to the unpredictable nature of water spouts, their accurate forecast would be a slim chance. However, with enough experience many sea farers have learnt the tricks to predict one. Dark spots in water or sudden shifts in wind are enough to warn them of an upcoming water spout.


An amazing fact about water spouts is that they continue to be mysterious despite of extensive studies on them. Their unique nature continues to baffle world all together.


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