Vortices happen all the time when liquids or gasses move in a narrow column. Within the complex world of fluid dynamics, it turns out this is the most efficient way. Let the water out of the bath and a small tornado forms as water drains, displacing air on the other side. Tornadoes are a more complex and far more violent example of this same process. Somewhere in-between are vortices such as dust devils and waterspouts.

By definition, any tornado which touches down on water is a waterspout, but there is a special class of waterspouts not born out of a severe thunderstorm, but of a weaker shower, similar to a cold-core funnel but aided by the heat and humidity of a warm body of water. This sort of classic waterspout is rare in our region but one was spotted on Devils Lake a week ago today.

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