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Photo of cold air funnel sent to KOAM

Heather Sinclair sends KOAM a photo of a cold air funnel. It was taken today outside of McCune, Kansas.

Cold air funnel clouds are fairly common occurrences on the Northern Plains and Canadian Prairies during the late Spring and early Summer seasons.

Necessary ingredients include a large upper level low pressure system which provides a cyclonic environment as well as cooler temperatures aloft. The cooler temperatures aloft help create an unstable environment for strong updrafts.

These updrafts are usually at their strongest during the peak heating of the day, making cold air funnel clouds most common during the mid to late afternoon period.

Converging winds near the surface create horizontal circulations that the updraft can lift and tilt into the vertical and also stretch, causing a funnel cloud to form as the rotation increases and moisture in the air condenses.

These funnel clouds are usually very short-lived and most often are harmless. However, in rare cases, with a very strong wind boundary and updraft (often found along thunderstorm outflow boundaries) these can reach all the way to the ground and when contact with the ground is made a funnel cloud becomes a tornado by definition.

A common term for these types of tornadoes is a Landspout, because of the similar look and formation mechanism to waterspouts. These types of tornadoes tend to be much weaker than the more typical tornadoes associated with a supercell thunderstorm, but some damage can still occur.

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