Mini 'tornado' spotted over Bristol and South Gloucestershire

Tornado over South Gloucestershire
The funnel cloud was seen across Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

A funnel cloud which looked like a 'tornado' was spotted across the Bristol and South Gloucestershire skyline at the weekend.

The cloud was spotted at around 7pm on Sunday 6 June.

A funnel cloud starts in the same was as a tornado but it never touches the ground. It is only when it reaches the earth's surface that it officially becomes a tornado.

According to the Met Office, the UK sees about 30 tornadoes per year but it is extremely rare they are strong enough to cause any significant damage.

But how are they formed and how common are they? Our weather expert Charlie Powell has the details.

A similar funnel cloud was actually spotted over Somerset in May. Credit: Emma Huddy

How do they form?

In powerful, energetic shower clouds known as cumulonimbus, air is moving around piling in moisture and heat, creating thunderstorms and intense rain. Sometimes the air starts to rotate and if this happens in a small area at the base of the cloud a tiny area of low pressure is created. This draws in water droplets and hangs down from the cloud base as a funnel cloud.

Isn't this just a tornado?

If a funnel cloud reaches the ground then it becomes a tornado. Similarly, if a funnel cloud forms over water and touches the surface it becomes a waterspout. These occur in the UK more often than you might think but they do not tend to be that powerful or destructive, certainly not compared to the ones you see in the USA.

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