Phenomenal Waterspouts Stir Up Ionian Sea

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Photographing a waterspout is one of those rare events in life that if it happens and, it’s a safe enough distance away, you can consider yourself fortunate. Roberto Giudici saw 10 funnel clouds form one-after-the other in July 1999, off the coast of the Greek Island of Orthoni in the Ionian Sea. He managed to photograph the four above off the starboard (right) side of the ship (the most recent waterspout shown in the foreground) as the captain continued through the line.

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“I asked the boat’s captain if he thought cruising past the spouts would be dangerous, but apparently, he wasn’t bothered much by their proximity,”  Giudici told NASA’s Jim Foster for a recent Earth Science Picture of the Day. Indeed, the cumuliform clouds that generated the waterspouts had not seemed ominous and the atmospheric pressure remained stable at 1024 millibars. So why did the spouts form?

Each waterspout represents a focused point over the warmer seawater where condensation builds up between the water and the cooler moist air in the cloud. And even though it looks like the spouts are pulling the water up into the sky they are actually just dancing above the sea forming clouds that get shaped into twisting coils due to the vertical convection forces between them.

IMAGE: Waterspouts over the Adriatic Sea. (Courtesy of Roberto Giudici)

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