What caused the weather phenomenon off the Cumbrian coast?

Several eyewitnesses filmed a weather phenomenon as it happened off the Cumbrian coast last night.

The coastguard undertook a search after reports of an 'aircraft' that had crashed into the waters.

The operation was soon called off after closer inspection found the cloud-like formation to be a number of rare waterspouts between west Cumbria and the Isle of Man.

  • What is a waterspout?

It's a circular column of cloud-filled wind rotating over a body of water - in this case the sea.

Despite its name, the tornado-like formation is not made from water, it descends from cloud. They form over water, or move from land to water.

According to the Met Office, they are similar to tornados in the way they are formed as they require intensely low pressure and are typically associated with thunderclouds.

  • There are two types of waterspouts:

Tornadic waterspouts are influenced by severe weather and can be very destructive and dangerous.

The more common fair-weather waterspouts are rarely dangerous, form from cloud and are associated with developing storm systems, but not storms themselves.

The average waterspout is around 50m in diameter, with winds of 50mph or above. They can last up to an hour, but most die down after 5-10 minutes.

  • Do you have footage of this rare phenomenon? We would love to see them! Email btvnews@itv.com or visit ourFacebook.