Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15: Tornado Just Off Ocean City

The photo below shows a tornado in the vicinity of Ocean City, MD taken this afternoon.   The tornado was produced by a thunderstorm cell that formed in unstable air, ahead of a strong cold front pushing across Maryland.    The large, funnel-shaped appearance of the tornado cloud and broad spray ring suggests that this developed as a tornado over land and subsequently moved offshore, as opposed to a waterspout that initiated over the ocean - but the NWS is trying to substantiate this.  Tornadoes - even those that move over water - tend to contain higher wind speeds than waterspouts.  Tornadoes and waterspouts also form by different mechanisms.
My own examination of the radar imagery this afternoon (shown below) identifies the cluster of thunderstorm cells that I believe may have generated the tornado (located inside the thick red circle).  The cold front advancing across Maryland (thick, solid blue line) is also shown.

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