waterspout is defined by the
National Weather Service simply as a tornado over water. However, researchers typically distinguish “fair weather” waterspouts from tornadic waterspouts.
- Fair weather waterspouts are less severe but far more common, and are similar in dynamics to dust devils and landspouts. They form at the bases of cumulus congestus cloud towers in tropical and semitropical waters. They have relatively weak winds, smooth laminar walls, and typically travel very slowly, if at all. They occur most commonly in the Florida Keys and in the northern Adriatic Sea.
- Tornadic waterspouts are more literally “tornadoes over water”. They can form over water like mesocyclonic tornadoes, or be a land tornado which crosses onto water. Since they form from severe thunderstorms and can be far more intense, faster, and longer-lived than fair weather waterspouts, they are considered far more dangerous.