While not unheard of in the region, the number of waterspouts that have occurred so close together is unusual, experts say. Photo courtesy of RAJA/Finnish Border Guard
July 19 – When stormy weather is forecast, many people usually avoid the beach or going out on a boat. However, this was not the case for many holidaymakers in south-west Finland, who rushed to the sea last weekend to witness an impressive weather phenomenon.
As a storm rolled in and the sky darkened, Nina Rantanen, a holidaymaker in Kustavi on Finland’s southwestern coast, watched in awe like five waterspouts began to swirl in the sea. Rantanen quickly grabbed her phone to capture the spectacular moment.
frenzy told local media that people were queuing and watching the massive waterspouts spinning in the distance. She said some are narrower while others are “significantly stronger”.
According to AccuWeather’s chief weather forecaster, Tyler Roys, a low-pressure area moving away from southern Finland into Russia, along with another low-pressure area appearing on the Russian-Baltic state border, were the catalysts for the unsettled weather and the unusual spectacle.
Just south-east of Kustavi – off Isokari, an island on the south-west coast of Finland – a cargo ship encountered similar weather. Jeffery Ripson, the ship’s captain, told Storyful that on July 9, his crew members witnessed an unusual phenomenon.
Crew members aboard the ship rushed to their phones to capture the moment three swirling waterspouts hit the sea simultaneously.
Ville Siiskonen, a meteorologist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, told local media that these waterspouts are particularly dangerous for boats on the water. Even a small waterspout can collect enough water to overturn boats in the water.
As the weekend drew to a close, the blustery weather continued and more waterspouts were reported.
On July 11, a member of the Finnish Border Guard observed as many seven waterspouts at the same time off the northern part of Åland, an archipelago off the southwest coast of Finland.
“Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water,” Roys explained. “They usually occur during showers or thunderstorms.”
Waterspouts can also form when a thunderstorm isn’t present and conditions are just right. “Fair weather” waterspouts can develop when there are large differences in air and water temperatures, and are common over the Great Lakes of the United States.
While not unknown in the region, the number of waterspouts that have occurred so close together is unusual.
“It was rare to see so many waterspouts in such close proximity,” wrote the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
About 100 waterspouts have been reported in this region since 1980, according to the European Severe Weather Database. According to Roys, given that severe weather went unreported for much of the 40-year period, that number is likely an undercount, and there were likely more than 100 waterspouts.