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Spinning waterspout rises up from a lake in Rwanda

This is the moment stunned villagers watched as a giant waterspout formed on a lake in Rwanda.

The tornadic weather phenomenon was seen extending from the blue waters of Lake Ruhondo, Burera district high up to the dark clouds above on Tuesday.

The whirlwind started in the water as a small rotating gust before it slowly turned into a funnel-shaped column around 65 feet away from the houses.

Teacher Schadrack Tuya had been relaxing on his balcony when he saw the waterspout rapidly forming and quickly warned his family members.

Schadrack said: 'I did not want to panic but I still alerted my family members about it just to be sure. I watched the waterspout grow from the small rotating wind it was until it become a giant that reached the sky.'

The waterspout grew bigger as it sucked in more water but fortunately stayed on the lake and did not move closer to the homes. 

After a few minutes, the waterspout started to lose force before completely dissipating.

Rwanda's Meteorology Agency said in a statement that the waterspout was caused by shifting weather patterns in the local area.

The tornadic weather phenomenon was seen extending from the blue waters of Lake Ruhondo, Burera district high up to the dark clouds above on Tuesday

The organisation said: 'The weather phenomenon occurs when cold air moves across the lakes and results in large temperature differences between warm water and the overriding cold air.'

Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water. They are intense columns of swirling clouds that stretch from the surface high into the sky.

They are most commonly found in subtropical areas and disappear shortly after they come into contact with land.

Waterspouts are generally not dangerous but they can be a risk for aircraft flying through the area and for coral reefs and marine life in the water below them.

The waterspout grew bigger as it sucked in more water but fortunately stayed on the lake. After a few minutes, the waterspout started to lose force before completely dissipating

Sailors should also try to avoid waterspouts – as the consequences of floating into one could be disastrous.

The most common type of waterspout is a ‘fair weather waterspout’. They happen when winds merge from opposite directions near the water’s surface, creating a small area of spin.

Sudden warm air at the surface, usually from a thunderstorm, causes the spinning air to rotate faster and it starts to rise – picking up water at the same time.

Sometimes the air spins so fast that it stretches and a funnel appears from the water to the thunderstorm cloud above. 

WATERSPOUTS: DEADLY FUNNELS THAT CAN RISE HUNDREDS OF FEET 

What are they and why do they form?

Waterspouts are whirling columns of air and water mist.

They form when cumulus clouds grow rapidly. These clouds are detached, fluffy-looking and cauliflower-shaped.

Cumulus clouds develop due to convection. This is when hot air rises and cools to form water vapour, which then condenses to form clouds. 

They fall into two categories: 'fair weather' and 'tornadic' 

(1) Tornadic waterspouts 

These are tornadoes that form over water, or move from land to water, and develop downwards during thunderstorms.

They have the same characteristics as a land tornado and can be accompanied by high winds and seas, large hail and lightning.

(2) Fair weather waterspouts 

These usually form along the dark flat base of a line of developing cumulus clouds and develop upwards from the surface of water.

They are generally not associated with thunderstorms and form in light wind conditions so don't move very much. 

The five stages of formation 

1. Dark spot: A light-coloured disk appears on the water's surface surrounded by a larger darker area

2. Spiral pattern: A combination of light and dark patches on the water spiral out from the dark spot

3. Spray ring: A ring of sea spray appears around the dark spot

4. Mature vortex: The waterspout reaches maximum intensity, making a funnel shape which appears hollow. It can rise several hundred feet.

5. Decay: The funnel and spray vortex begin to dissipate as the inflow of warm air into the vortex weakens

Sources: Met Office / National Ocean Service / National Weather Service

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