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November 2013

November 2013

An Ibizan Waterspout

November’s Cloud of the Month features the cloud feature known as a tuba. This finger of cloud forms within the rotating air below a Cumulonimbus storm cloud. When it reaches the ground it is known as a landspout or, if it has below a large-scale storm system, a tornado. When the surface below is water, as was the case for this one near the island of Ibiza, it is known as a waterspout. And it is these that are the likely explanation for unusual events dating back thousands of years.

The powerful updrafts within the core of a waterspout can suck up water from the surface into the storm cloud above. If a shoal of fish is swimming near the surface they too can be dragged up and carried some distance until the cloud releases its load and rains fish.

There have been many reports of fish falls over the centuries – as far back as the first century AD, when the Roman natural philosopher Pliney the Elder mentioned storms of fish and frogs. In 1864, a Quebec farmer found a frog inside a hailstone and in 1930 an 8-inch turtle fell during a storm over Mississippi.

Photograph © Brian Ludwig.

  • Susan Wiffill avatar


    November 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Never realised these things existed,amazing.and did not know about the variations of clouds.Clouds are very magical ,not only do they look fabulous,but some of them do surprising things.

  • Ellinor Henderson avatar


    November 23, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I’ve never seen a waterspout, but have been in a tornado. While I’d love to see a waterspout, once is enough for tornadoes, which are very loud and rain sticks and other debris all over the place. My house was not destroyed in the tornado I experienced, but up the street houses were IN the street! Nice photo!

  • Shakira

    November 30, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Wow, is this really true? I think one of the CAS forum people once mentioned they had seen a fish-like shape in the clouds – this could be the reason why. Once again, goes to show how amazing clouds are

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