In January 2009, local Andy MacDougal noticed a rare natural phenomenon on Lake Champlain and was able to capture some footage of the event. What was this unique and exciting sight our region was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of ? Winter waterspouts on the lake! See the video above to enjoy the experience for yourself.
What are Waterspouts?
A waterspout “is a narrow, rotating column of air that forms over water, and appears as a condensation funnel which extends from the water surface to a cumuliform cloud above” (NOAA). Though reminiscent of a tornado waterspouts generally have less strength.
They generally form in tropical climates, but have been known to form in arctic conditions as well, which of course is much closer to the weather conditions that were occurring on Lake Champlain at the time of the waterspout event that January. Andy stated that the air temperature was between -3 and -5 degrees Fahrenheit and the water temperature was between 33 and 35 degrees at the time of the event.
Learn more about this event, how it occurs, and to see more images visit the National Weather Service Forecast Office (NOAA) website. The 2009 event on Lake Champlain is now preserved in their records!
No fewer than five waterspouts were observed over the southern portion of Lake Champlain during the mid-morning hours on Thursday, 15 January 2009. Smaller low-level whirls (sometimes referred to as steam devils) were also abundant, originating from the arctic sea smoke or steam fog near the water surface. Documented waterspout activity over Lake Champlain is rare.
The video images shown herein are courtesy of Mr. Andy MacDougal of Essex, New York, who was out filming events over the lake around 10:30am EST that morning. The images appear here with Mr. MacDougal’s kind permission for the scientific record and for educational purposes. (NOAA)
Lake Champlain’s Waterspouts
Andy sent the video he filmed to the National Weather Service Forecast Office (NOAA) to document the event. In response, Peter Banacos of the NOAA in Burlington, VT told Andy that the last time a winter waterspout was reported on Lake Champlain was on February 12, 1954!
There have been various other waterspouts reported but very few in the winter and under these conditions. I only wish that I had taken a higher quality video and more footage! ~Andy MacDougal
Soon after the first event that Andy captured he was lucky enough to see the event again, unfortunately this time he did not have his camera.
It happened again today while I was on the 7:30 am ferry to Charlotte! We actually spotted another waterspout that stretched from the water to the cumulus clouds that gathered over the lake last night! I tried to get the others that witnessed the spout this morning excited but they mostly were “ho-hum.” An unknown photographer did snap pictures of it. I hope he sends them to the NOAA. ~Andy MacDougal
Since 2009, it seems that during January Lake Champlain has become host to this phenomenon several more times. Does anyone have any theories as to why this rare weather event is not so rare here anymore? Is it simply being noticed more? Or perhaps changing climates are making our region more hospitable to this type of event?
I actually caught them on video two more times in 2010 and got even closer pictures of fully formed funnels in Whallon’s Bay. I [have] caught them 3 times on video and only twice with cameras, total. ~Andy MacDougal
Have you ever see this event occur on Lake Champlain? Or have you ever seen any other unique weather anomalies like it in our region?