What is a Landspout?

June 1, 2023

A landspout is classified as a tornado but it’s not the kind of twister we typically think about. They are much less destructive than their violent supercell counterparts and they don’t form the same way. They also tend to be short-lived, often lasting only 15 minutes or so. They are similar to waterspouts but can occur over land and they can even form without any sign of a thunderstorm.

This one formed near Yorktown in Bureau County. It’s been rated as an EF-0 tornado by the National Weather Service and it didn’t do any damage. Landspouts are pretty common around the country but they can be hard to spot because they don’t always show up on radar.

KWQC meteorologist Scott Danielson says they are very similar to dust devils, except that they can move up over the ground instead of swirling over water. They can have a cotton-like appearance and they usually have flat bases. They are able to form because of a sharp temperature change between the surface and the sky, similar to what happens when a waterspout forms.

Because they are so short-lived, a landspout isn’t likely to get the same treatment as a traditional tornado. It can be tough for meteorologists to see them on radar and they will only be rated as a tornado if a storm chaser spots one with photo or video evidence. They can’t be spotted by Doppler weather radar because they are too close to the ground and don’t have enough lift to reach the clouds above.


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