WATERSPOUTS

Waterspouts are not nearly as rare as most people might imagine, though many people never see one. The simple reason is that most are out at sea, and there is far more ocean than land. I had memories of a small one, seen many years ago off Australia's Gold Coast, but was suitably amazed in early 2012 to see one off Batemans Bay while driving the car.

This waterspout (actually, what you see is essentially cloud condensing in the vortex due to reduced atmospheric pressure) lasted long enough that I was able to continue home, retrieve my camera and change the lens, then take several photos as below. This one formed on a warm summer's day, probably due to atmospheric instability and wind shear associated with a cold front moving north up the coast at the time. It collapsed as I watched, but the remnants of the main vortex can still be seen up to cloud level in the later shots.






If I thought that was suitably amazing (and one of my photos was on the front page of the local paper), it was nothing compared to the waterspout that arrived in November of the same year.

Again, this was in an unstable air mass ahead of a front moving up the coast. I had been outside taking photos and noticed an unusual formation in a developing cumuliform cloud. I took some shots of it then, mistakenly, went inside.


The sounds of shouting outside, shortly later, led me to look out the door: I was astonished to see an enormous waterspout. Needless to say, there was an absolute rush to get the camera, fit the old Vivitar 70-210 zoom, and get outdoors for some photographs.



I wanted a shot showing the foot of the spout if possible, so I ran across the street to get the following slightly wider shot. I would estimate that, at this stage, it was several hundred metres across and about two km distant (and fortunately moving away).


Finally I dashed down to the beach, where a small crowd had gathered, just in time to see it reach landfall in a nearby National Park and dissipate. Needless to say, I'll be on "permanent lookout" from now on!