LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Wednesday afternoon around 12:30pm a tropical funnel was spotted near I-40 near Jennette, AR.

The National Weather Service in Memphis saw it on one of the ARDOT traffic cameras and tweeted it out.

The tropical funnel is located in the far right of the picture.

This funnel has not been confirmed as a tornado as of 5pm Monday, but instead a “tropical funnel.” If the funnel cloud is confirmed it touched the ground, then it will be classified as a tornado.

So what is a tropical funnel?

Tropical funnels are typically harmless. They rarely touch down and don’t cause much damage. In this instance, no damage was reported.

Unlike tornadoes, tropical funnels do not form within a supercell thunderstorm or rotating wall cloud. They form when the environment is very humid with low amounts of wind.

The video above shows a radar loop of the reported tropical funnel cloud. Notice how the shower producing it is not a mesocyclone on radar and shows no sign of rotation. If this were a funnel cloud associated with a classic tornado, the radar loop would show a strong storm indicating rotation. For example, a hook echo associated with a supercell thunderstorm. In other words, it would look far more ominous.

Tropical funnels are caused by the vertical stretching of vorticity. Vorticity is the spin in the atmosphere. The spinning motion with landspouts or tropical funnels originates near the ground.

As this vorticity is stretched vertically, the area of rotation shrinks and the spinning air speeds up. Think of an figure skater doing a spin. They pull in their arms to spin faster.


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