Water Spout on Lake Tahoe, CA Last Night

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Lake Tahoe, CA water spout yesterday near Emerald Bay.  photo:  brett kendall
Lake Tahoe, CA water spout yesterday near Emerald Bay. photo: brett kendall

The weather in the Sierra Nevada has been crazy this summer with frequent thunderstorms due to an unusually warm eastern Pacific Ocean.  Yesterday, it came to a head with snow closing Tioga Pass and a large water spout forming on Lake Tahoe.

After a very quite 4 years, the Sierras have come alive!

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A rare waterspout occurred on Lake Tahoe last night shortly after 9 pm. Usually, waterspouts are caused by differential heating currents with small scale rotation super-imposed aloft. This event, however, appears to have had a little more rotation involved and a little less differential heating considering the time it occurred.

Eye witnesses saw the waterspout form near the mouth of Emerald Bay and move towards Tahoe Keys very quickly. Fortunately, there were no reports of this moving onshore.” – NOAA Reno

Maybe the most famous Tahoe Water spout from back in 1998.
Maybe the most famous Tahoe Water spout from back in 1998.  photo:  gary kaufman

There is even a great story from England in the year 2000 when thousands of fish fell from a passing thunderstorm.  The only explanation scientist could come up with was that a water spout had sucked up fish off the sea, whirled them around in the storm, then dropped them on land.

Fish from the sky.
Fish from the sky.

WHAT IS A WATER SPOUT?

“A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex (usually appearing as a funnel-shaped cloud) that occurs over a body of water. They are connected to a towering cumuliform cloud or a cumulonimbus cloud.[1] In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water.

While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur.Most waterspouts do not suck up water; they are small and weak rotating columns of air over water.

While waterspouts form mostly in the tropics and subtropical areas, other areas also report waterspouts, including Europe, New Zealand, the Great Lakes and Antarctica.  Although rare, waterspouts have been observed in connection with lake-effect snowprecipitation bands.

Waterspouts have a five-part life cycle: formation of a dark spot on the water surface, spiral pattern on the water surface, formation of a spray ring, development of the visible condensation funnel, and ultimately decay.” – Wikipedia


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