A “small tornado” was spotted in the sky over the English Channel this morning (May 24). The photo was taken looking east from Broadstairs shortly before noon.
Steve Hodgson, who works at Lillyputt Minigolf in Broadstairs, took the photo and told KentLive the ‘tornado’ lasted around 10 minutes. He said he had seen them before but they weren’t common.
It comes amid choppy weather in Kent which saw a mix of sunshine and showers across the county earlier this week. Alex Burkill, a meteorologist at the Met Office confirmed that the image appeared to show a funnel cloud, which despite many similarities to a tornado has one big difference.
READ MORE: Met Office warns of heavy rain to hit much of Kent on Tuesday
He explained that a funnel cloud does not reach the surface of the earth, at the point where it reaches the earth it becomes a tornado, or if it reaches a body of water it becomes a waterspout. Photos taken by Steve Hodgson show that the cyclone does not appear to be touching the ground.
Alex told KentLive that the presence of cumulonimbus clouds and the weather on the east coast of Kent on Tuesday morning created perfect conditions for a funnel cloud. On average, the UK records between 30 and 35 tornadoes each year – although the number of funnel clouds is much higher.
Kent is set for cloudier conditions for the rest of the week with temperatures struggling to rise above 20C. Cumulonimbus clouds are almost always the host cloud from which the snorkel forms, meaning strong rain, hail, thunder and lightning can all be expected.
What weather is associated with funnel clouds and how do they form?
If a funnel cloud makes contact with the ground and produces a tornado, very strong winds can be expected in the immediate vicinity of the vortex, potentially causing severe damage.
How do funnel clouds form?
A rotating column of wind attracts cloud droplets, making visible a region of intense low pressure. They form similar to a tornado building around this localized area of very low pressure and are usually associated with the formation of cumulonimbus clouds.