Friday, May 27, 2016

Definition of a Landspout

We have a definitional problem related to tornadoes in Kansas. Law enforcement and at least one of our television meteorologists this afternoon proclaimed a tornado to be a "landspout." Unfortunately, they are using the terminology wrong -- and, that could get people into trouble.

A landspout is a tornado not associated with a thunderstorm. Specifically, it is not associated with a "mesocyclone's" circulation. When a TV meteorologist is pointing at a Doppler wind display of thunderstorms saying, "Circulation, here, here and here," by definition the tornadoes associated with them are not landspouts. They are tornadoes.

Why does this matter? Landspouts rarely produce damage. Tornadoes (what the meteorologist is pointing at this afternoon) do produce damage.

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