The first half of June has indeed been an interesting one in the weather department here at News 18. Stormy weather for weeks at a time, below average temperatures, above average rainfall, record flooding and cold air funnels…who could ask for more?
Well, over the weekend some folks throughout the upper Midwest experienced an outbreak of what we call gustnadoes. Saturday evening as strong storms rolled through central Minnesota, the National Weather Service in Chanhassen began receiving phone calls with reports of tornadoes in the area.
The meteorologists on duty were a bit surprised to hear this, as the radar data showed no signs of rotation within these storms…nothing, notta. The environment just wasn’t right for tornado formation. So what was going on?
As this strong line of storms moved through, cold air was being pushed down to the surface at the leading edge of the storm (we call this the gust front) and slicing under the warm air in front of it, which in return gets forced violently upward. Now you have the winds going in two different directions near the ground and this friction creates a spinning column of air which can create a gustnado.
Gustnadoes are different from tornadoes in that they usually don’t extend all the way up to the base of the cloud. They have more in common with a dust devil or whirlwind than a tornado (picture an area of leaves swirling on a windy day, only on a larger scale). They typically only last a few seconds to a few minutes and have winds from 50-100 mph. They rarely evolve into a full blown tornado, but it can happen and therefore should be taken seriously.
Thankfully we’ll see calmer conditions across the region this week and let’s hope for a little less variety the rest of the month!
Meteorologist LeAnn Lombardo
Posted under Hometown Weather
This post was written by llombardo on June 16, 2008