What is their purpose?

Waterspouts can be described as whirling columns made of water and mist.

These clouds form quickly when cumulus cloud grow fast. They are a detached cloud that looks fluffy and is cauliflower-shaped.

Cumulus clouds develop due to convection. When hot air cools down to create water vapour. Then, it condenses and forms cumulus clouds. 

These two types of weather fall under the umbrella of ‘fairweather’ and tornadic. 

(1) Tornadic waterpouts 

These tornadoes are formed over water and move from water to land.

These tornadoes have similar characteristics to a ground tornado, and they can also be associated with high winds, seas and large hail.

(2) Fair-weather waterspouts 

These appear to form at the base of cumulus clouds that are developing and rise up from the sea surface.

They’re not often associated with thunderstorms. 

Five stages of formation 

1. Dark spot: An area of water that is darkened by an opaque, light-coloured surface.

2. Spiral Pattern: Combination of dark and light spots on the water that form a spiral.

3. Spray ring: An area around the dark spot appears to have a sea spray ring.

4. Mature vortex: When the waterspout hits its peak intensity, the funnel-shaped shape appears hollow. The waterspout can reach 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