Waterspout: brief, but mediagenic

Waterspout: brief, but mediagenic
Fecha de publicación: 
24 October 2022
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The Cuban Institute of Meteorology confirmed yesterday in its Facebook profile the occurrence, early in the morning, of a waterspout in the vicinity of the Castle of the Three Kings of Morro, Havana.

Among other Cuban meteorologists, Henry Delgado Manzor said in his Facebook profile that the atmospheric instability generated prior to the first cold front of the 2022-2023 winter season favored the occurrence of such phenomenon.

Havanans were already crossing their fingers when the first photos of the “event” came to light, which, happily, vanished quickly without hitting ground and therefore, no damages were caused.

In the prime-time Cuban television newscast, meteorologist Elier Pila Fariñas reported that this atmospheric phenomenon developed and vanished within seconds.

Showing images of the waterspout, he described how the water raised a little from the sea surface while moving towards the Morro Fortress.

The event developed, he commented, within the prefrontal activity that is paired to the arrival of a cold front. This situation, he highlighted, is normal when these systems approach.

Nonetheless, despite the normal occurrence of the event, the photos and videos have gone viral in social networks.

How did the waterspout form?

The also meteorologist Ariel Maturell Salina gives details about the formation of waterspouts:

“Some points are necessary for the formation: thermal contrast between the mass of cold air that arrives from North America and the warm air that moves from the Caribbean. In addition to this, the increase in vorticity (it is a parameter that measures the capacity and tendency to rotate from a fluid, in this case, air).

“The increase in vorticity and shear (difference in flow velocity at different heights) generates, in some cases, the formation of these rotating vortices which, if formed over masses of water, are known as waterspouts; if it were over land, they would be tornadoes.”

He pointed out that these waterspouts are usually brief because “that ability to rotate quickly vanishes. But whenever a cold front comes in or there's some kind of storm, stay alert," he warned.

Looking back and forward

Last February, a waterspout turned into a weak tornado, which caused damage to light roofs, trees and power lines, in the vicinity of Guanabo and Boca Ciega, in the municipality of Habana del Este.

In this case, the instability generated by the advance of the tenth cold front of the 2021-2022 winter season through areas of the north coast of the western region, the high humidity content and favorable conditions in the upper troposphere, between 10 and 12 kilometers high, favored the occurrence of a severe local storm on these beaches and then, the formation of the waterspout, which turned into a tornado.

A month later, last March, similar phenomena were spotted in other places of the Cuban geography. In this regard, Delgado Manzor made a comment to Juventud Rebelde newspaper that has not lost its relevance:

“We must be always prepared to face this sort of phenomena as they may occur throughout the year, all over the country. The population must be educated on these issues. People know a lot about cyclones, but not about tornadoes and waterspouts.”

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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