About Thomas

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Thomas has created 352 blog entries.
20 07, 2019

Mornings Forecast To Slowly Warm


Temperatures are expected to finally start climbing across QLD and NSW as a large high pressure systems moves East into the Pacific Ocean, marking a change in wind patterns. Above image – OCF Forecast Minimums for Sunday across SEQ & NENSW.


A large high pressure system which has been responsible for producing significantly colder than normal temperatures across elevated parts of NSW including NENSW and widespread parts of Southern and South East QLD… even Central QLD… is expected to finally move East and start to head out to sea over the Pacific Ocean and towards New Zealand. This high has lead to continuous clear skies across QLD & NSW with light winds aiding in the temperature plummeting overnight. 

Forecast winds for Sunday morning showing an Inland trough (purple line) with North to North West winds over QLD & NSW, and an onshore flow over Eastern QLD. Image via Windy.



During the past 7-8 nights we have seen some significant stats accumulate. Ipswich saw 7 consecutive nights of 0ºc or lower, for the first time since 2012. Glen Innes recorded a year-low of -12.3ºc which was also the coldest temperature in 11 years for the town. Tenterfield saw -9.1ºc which was also the coldest temperature in 11 years. Applethorpe with -6.1ºc had its coldest morning in 8 years. 4 of the past 7 mornings have been below -8ºc for Glen Innes, something that is quite unusual as the severely cold morning’s are normally 1 off occurrences. Armidale has had 4 of its past 5 mornings below -5ºc. Dalby was another town that saw a week straight of below freezing mornings too.

Forecast minimums and frost potential via OCF / BSCH for Sunday morning across NSW

So what has changed now? The high as it moves East will cause winds to veer more North to North Westerly across the Eastern half of the country, feeding into an Inland trough. These winds are typically warmer. Clear skies and naturally cooler atmospheric conditions will keep temperatures “cold” or “near normal” for this time of year, but with the lack of a Southerly influence.. overnight minimums may struggle to plummet. As a result of this, frost is only “possible” across the Great Diving Range & Southern Inland QLD for Sunday morning.

Forecast minimums and frost potential via OCF / BSCH for Sunday morning across QLD


Mornings Forecast To Slowly Warm2019-07-20T17:27:48+10:00
17 07, 2019

Thursday: Another Cold Start For SEQLD & NENSW


South East QLD, Southern Inland QLD, Northern & North East NSW are expected to see yet another cold start to the day on Thursday as temperatures remain below to well below average across the region. Above image: OCF Forecast Minimums with a possible frost area circled.


Some places are now seeing a run of cold mornings that hasn’t been felt in a while – for Winter lovers, thats fantastic, for Winter haters its not that great. Glen Innes has now recorded -5ºc or colder, including 3 mornings below -8ºc in the past 8 days. Stanthorpe has recorded back to back -6ºc mornings. Warwick saw -5ºc in July for the first time in 5 years… with several locations recorded 4 consecutive mornings below freezing. Thursday morning is expected to be no different, with multiple locations dropping below freezing yet again. Thursday however should be fractionally warmer as winds increase across Inland areas, and this may stop locations from “actually” recording -5 to -10ºc like previous mornings, but -2 or -3ºc may feel more like -8ºc with a 50km/h breeze. So the actual temperature may be slightly warmer, but the feels like temp will be the same. The wind will prevent many locations from recording frost, with conditions being too windy for frost to settle… for those in the hollows though where some protection from the wind may occur, it could be a very icy start to the day.

Forecast winds during Thursday morning via EC / Windy. Yellow >40km/h, pink >60km/h.



Some forecast temperatures for Thursday morning: 
(QLD) Brisbane 9ºc, Ipswich 2ºc, Gold Coast 10ºc (closer to 1 or 2ºc around Canungra), Sunshine Coast 9ºc, Gatton 4ºc, Stanthorpe -3ºc, Warwick -2ºc, Toowoomba 3ºc, Dalby -1ºc, Roma -1ºc

(NSW) Glen Innes -5ºc, Armidale -2ºc, Tenterfield -2ºc, Inverell -1ºc, Guyra -3ºc, Lismore 4ºc, Casino 4ºc, Barraba -2ºc, Moree 1ºc, Ballina 6ºc.


Thursday: Another Cold Start For SEQLD & NENSW2019-07-17T16:49:35+10:00
17 07, 2019

Know Your District! (New South Wales & ACT)


When it comes to severe weather, regardless of the type of the scenario, one of the age old questions we receive on Higgins Storm Chasing, as well as any other weather page across the globe is ‘Will this affect me at x”. Generally ‘districts’ or much broader areas are labelled rather than specific towns. This is largely due to weather being unpredictable down to the nearest town and weather systems being quite large which means their potential is spread over hundreds of kilometres. Its also due to there sometimes being so many town, that the list would be far too long for it to be beneficial. Some setups or systems are easier to predict than others, but even in those situations, districts or parts of district (i.e Coastal parts of the Northern Rivers and South East QLD Coast) are labelled. 


Outline of the Sydney Metropolitan district with many town names included. Base image via Weatherzone


NEW SOUTH WALES and the AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY includes 17 districts according to the Bureau of Meteorology. These districts along with SOME of their respective towns include (Obviously not all towns are named, but if you recognise a nearby town, then chances are you are included in that district):


1 – Northern Rivers: Lismore, Casino, Yamba, Evans Head, Grafton, Brooms Head, Maclean, Kyogle, Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads, Ocean Shores, Rappville, Coraki, Nymboida, Mullumbimby.
2 – Mid North Coast: Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Kempsey, South West Rocks, Taree, Gloucester, Wauchope, Nambucca Heads, Sawmill, Macksville. 
3 – Hunter: Newcastle, Singleton, Denman, Merriwa, Scone, Murrurundi, Cessnock, Gosford, Barrington Tops, Muswellbrook, Maitland.
4 – Northern Tablelands: Armidale, Inverell, Tenterfield, Guyra, Glen Innes, Ben Lomond, Walcha, Emmaville, Uralla, Ebor, Tingha, Woodenbong.
5 – Central Coast & Sydney Metropolitan: Sydney City, Penrith, Manly, Sutherland, Hornsby, Mona Vale, Campbelltown, Richmond, Parramatta, Blackown, Camden, Rockdale, Mulgoa, Cowan, Randwick, Epping, Quakers Hill, Terrey Hills, Bondi, Liverpool, Holsworthy.
6 – Illawarra: Wollongong, Helensburgh, Bowral, Moss Vale, Nowra St Georges Basin, Tahmoor, Appin, Albion Park, Kiama, Port Kembla.
7 – South Coast: Ulladulla, Montague Island, Bega, Gabo Island, Batemans Bay, Moruya, Bemboka, Towamba, Merimbula, Eden, Tuross Head


8 – Central Tablelands: Bathurst, Orange, Oberon, Lithgow, Crookwell, Mudgee, Cowra, Blayney, Shooters Hill, Katoomba, Fullerton, Portland, Blackheath, Blaxland, Kandos, Gulgong.
9 – Southern Tablelands: Goulburn, Yass, Bungendore, Braidwood, Captains Flat, Gunning, Nerriga, Murrumbateman, Krawarree, Kain, Wee Jasper, Taralga, Queanbeyan.
10 – Snowy Mountains: Cooma, Jindabyne, Bungarby, Nimmitabel, Bombala, Thredbo Village, Perisher, Perisher Valley, Charlotte Pass, Cabramurra, Adaminaby, Rhine Hills, Mt Kosciuszko 
11 – North West Slopes & Plains: Moree, Walgett, Gunnedah, Tamworth, Wee Waa, Gurley, Bullarah, Baradine, Quirindi, Weeis Creek, Barraba, Bingara, Warialda, North Star, Wallangra, Ashford, Bonshaw, Nundle, Burren Junction, Rowena, Mungindi, Come By Chance, Boomi, Collarenebri.
12 – Central West Slopes & Plains: Coonamble, Trangie, Dubbo, Peak Hill, Forbes, West Wyalong, Lake Cargelligo, Condoblin, Tottenham, Narromine, Girilambone, Coonabarabran, Mendooran, Dundeoo, Wellington, Parkes, Temora, Grenfell, Warren, Gilgandra, Quambone.
13 – South West Slopes & Plains: Young, Gundagai, Tumbarumba, Boorowa, Tumult, Cootamundra, 
14 – Riverina: Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Hay, Albury, Deniliquin, Narrandera, Junee, Culcaim, Finley, Maude, Conargo, Holbrook, Hillston, Merriwagga, Warbum, Darlington Point, Gunbar, Lockhart, Jerilderie, Coolamon, Barellan, Rankin Springs. 
15 – Lower Western: Broken Hill, Pooncarie, Menindee, Ivanhoe, Scotia, Balranald, Mildura East, Darrick, Oxley, Nymagee, Mulurulu, Lake Victoria.
16 – Upper Western: Bourke, Tibooburra, Cobar, White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Lightning Ridge, Hungerford, Brewarrina, Tilpa, Fowlers Gap, Milparinka, Smithville, Borrona Downs.
17 -Australian Capital Territory (ACT): Canberra, Brindabella Ranges, Mt Ginini, Kambah, Gordon, Hall, Naas, Tuggeranong, Tharwa, Tidbinbilla, Holt.



Often, districts can be grouped into larger categories. For example, “Inland” is classed by areas West of the Great Dividing Range, while “Coastal” districts are those that are East of the Great Dividing Range. Northern Inland NSW consists of the NW Slopes & Plains, parts of the Upper Western & Central West Slopes & Plains. Central Inland consists of the Central Tablenads, Central West Slopes & Plains and immediate surrounding areas. South East NSW includes the South Coast, Southern Tablelands, ACT, Snowy Mountains. North East NSW includes the Northern Rivers, Mid North Coast & Northern Tablelands… and yes, Canberra / the ACT is INCLUDED in South East NSW, Eastern, Southern NSW forecasts. The weather doesn’t magically stop at the ACT border, so even if the “ACT” isn’t specifically mentioned, it is included as if it were a district of South Eastern NSW. 


Outline of the Australian Capital Territory with many town names included. Base image via Weatherzone


Know Your District! (New South Wales & ACT)2019-07-21T18:32:44+10:00
16 07, 2019

Drought Crisis: No Water By Christmas For Some Towns!


The drought is taking a turn for the worse, as horrific conditions continue to create heartbreak for many towns across New South Wales & Queensland in particular. A scary prospect for 10 individual towns though, is the thought that with how things are going, there will be no water left AT ALL… some face this prospect by Christmas 2019.



Local Government NSW president Linda Scott has stated in blunt but very real terms – several regional cities and towns are now facing the prospect of a ‘day zero’ for water – i.e. no more water left at all. Some of these towns will face it within 12 months, others within 3 to 6 months and it wouldn’t be a shock for some to run out in just weeks. The only way for water to reach these towns is through bores which are drying up, or water trucks which have to endure several hundred kilometre long tracks to reach various towns.


Local dam photo near Tenterfield via “My Notes From New England


Southern Downs Regional Council Mayor Tracy Dobie has stated its the worst drought the region has ever had. It hasn’t rained for some towns across the region in over 2 years (thats rain that is beneficial, not just a passing shower that barely wets the ground). Summer storms are becoming more and more hit and miss as well which is adding insult to injury during the hot Summer months. 

The 10 towns facing this ordeal include:
• Tenterfield, NSW
• Armidale, NSW
• Tamworth, NSW
• Stanthorpe, QLD
• Warwick, QLD
• Dubbo, NSW
• Orange, NSW
• Narromine, NSW
• Cobar, NSW
• Nyngan, NSW


Dry dam near Ballandean, QLD (Darling Downs). Image via Kym Dachs


Warwick: The town itself since 2017 hasn’t done “too badly” for rain. 2017 and 2018 combined were near average for rainfall, however 2019 has been harsh with just 25% of the annual rainfall to July being observed. Further major problems are coming out of Warwick with Leslie Dam suffering at almost single digit percentage for capacity. Warwick is an anomaly on the list with about 18 months left of water… but even that is horrid. 


QLD Drought situation via BOM from January 2018 to June 2019



Stanthorpe: Similarly to Warwick, Stanthorpe has been near average or on the drier side of average over the past few years. Its 2019 that is being harsh with just 27% of the normal rainfall being observed, and only about 10% of the normal January / February rainfall was observed. Stanthorpe is in a horrible situation where its possible the town may run out of water by Christmas 2019. 

Tenterfield: Tenterfield has seen below average rainfall for the past 8 years, with several years being up to 25-30% below normal. Over the past 18 months (since the start of January 2018), the town has barely received 50% of its normal rainfall for that period. The local dam is sitting at 32%, but its not a big dam – so while the percentage isn’t dramatic – the overall scenario is. The town is pumping bore water but they believe it has less than 200 days before the bore is run dry – 2 days of pumping is worth 1 day of town usage. Its estimated that Tenterfield will need 1400 B-double trucks worth of water per month to remain at par. 

Across the other locations listed… Over the past 8 years, rainfall totals have been mostly below average apart from a good year in 2016 where all locations were at or above average. All locations have also suffered more intensely over the past 18 months with around 50% of their normal rainfall occurring during that time along with several failed Summer’s in a row. All locations are also situated in areas that suffer badly during Summer from heatwaves, meaning any passing showers are useless, and Winter frosts typically cause more harm than good. All locations listed due to the extremely dry conditions will likely suffer black frost during the Winter of 2019 that will kill any crops (if there are any that are alive, after many failed harvesting seasons in a row). 


NSW Drought situation via BOM from January 2018 to June 2019



Council is in a discussion with the State government to help fund $3.2million towards the search for new bores. This theoretically will only help in the short term though, as the speed these towns are running out of water at will mean any new bores found will soon become a casualty to the drought as well. All towns listed are also on heavy water restrictions, some the worst ever. For places like Stanthorpe and Tenterfield, they were unfortunately at a greater disadvantage as well, with larger towns in similar circumstances surrounding them – they’ve essentially become the nucleus of the greater crisis. Its been estimated that it would cost around $1million per month to cart water from Warwick to Stanthorpe. Thats all well and good though, but the 18 month deadline for Warwick will then become 12 months, then 6 months and while Stanthorpe plateau’s… Warwick runs out. Then Stanthorpe is in a world of pain themselves. 



Locations like Orange that are included in the list, are in a slightly more different scenario. As the town has storm water harvesting available and a water pipeline, it has a little more breathing room – but even then the worst case scenario is 12-18 months before day zero occurs. Guyra is currently carting water in, but Armidale and Tamworth are in horrible circumstances. Glen Innes is “okay” for now, but with all towns surrounding them in horrible situations – its only a matter of time. 

While people in better off situations sit at home and ponder how they can help. Its been urged to continue with tourism to these towns. There is plenty to do in several towns on a weekend, from a weather perspective there is also the potential for some snow chases or even a frost chase if youre game enough. What these little trips do is help supply the town with tourism money. It may only be a little, but when these towns rely on farming and agriculture and they’ve suffered through bushfires, storm damage and now a slow painful drought… they source of relevance and purpose becomes vulnerable. Adding some tourism money can soften the onslaught they are currently enduring. It will also allow many city people who aren’t used to these conditions, a chance to see reality. There can only be so many drought campaigns that happen. We at Higgins Storm Chasing have conducted many, however the continuous (albeit slow) cash flow and sustainability will need to come from tourism where people visit attractions, landmarks or even do small camping trips (including weather chasing) and inject revenue back into the towns. 


Local dam near Ballandean, Southern Darling Downs / Granite Belt. Image via Jude McGovern


Drought Crisis: No Water By Christmas For Some Towns!2019-07-17T17:23:53+10:00
16 07, 2019

Partial Lunar Eclipse for Australia on Wednesday Morning


Issued Tuesday, July 16th 2019. Australia is expected to experience a partial lunar eclipse during Wednesday morning, giving some reward to those who are willing to brave the cold to watch the phenomenon, and some reward for those who have a tedious winter morning school run.



A partial lunar eclipse is when the Earth passes between the sun and a full moon, but they don’t precisely align. When they precisely align, thats when a full lunar eclipse occurs, however in this scenario only part of the moon turns a reddish hue. A lunar eclipse (or partial eclipse in this regard) can last for as long as 3 and a half hours, however this one for Australia will be lasting a little over 60mins over Eastern areas and between 2 and 3 hours over Central and Western parts of the Country.



Unfortunately for those in Southern & South East South Australia, Southern & elevated parts of NSW, much of Victoria and the entirety of Tasmania – heavy cloud coverage is expected to hinder the viewing process during Wednesday morning. Eastern & Northern NSW, large parts of QLD, the NT and WA as well as Northern SA should be much clearer and these areas will be the most ideal for viewing. 


Forecast cloud coverage via Windy for 6am Wednesday July 17th morning.


Viewing times:

• Brisbane 6:01am to 7:38am (clear skies expected)
• Sydney 6:01am to 7:02am (clear skies expected)
• Canberra 6:01am to 7:14am (50/50 chance for viewing)
• Melbourne 6:01am to 7:38am (if cloud wasn’t around)
• Hobart 6:01am to 7:44am (if cloud wasn’t around)
• Adelaide 5:31am to 7:27am (if close wasn’t around)
• Darwin 5:31am to 7:13am (good views expected)
Perth 4:01am to 6:59am (clear skies)


Times for Partial Eclipse via 7 News


Partial Lunar Eclipse for Australia on Wednesday Morning2019-07-16T18:05:58+10:00
16 07, 2019



Temperatures are likely to plummet across North Eastern NSW, South Eastern & Southern QLD as well as parts of Central and even Northern QLD as clear skies and light winds dominate the picture. Above image: Frost potential via BOM MetEye.




The stage is set for another freezing start to the day across Northern NSW and large parts of QLD for Wednesday. A large and dominating high pressure system and associated ridge remain spread across the majority of NSW and QLD and this is continuing to produce perfect clear skies across both States. These clear skies are allowing for some average to even above average temperatures during the day, but also causing the heat to escape at night which is allowing for the temperature to plummet. Light South Westerly winds are expected to continue across South East QLD and North East NSW with light Southerly winds feeding in over Southern Inland, Central & Northern QLD.



This combination is likely to produce widespread frost and ice across North East NSW and South East QLD where locally moderate to heavy frost is likely, along with frozen fences, frozen pipes and hoses. Patchy frost is likely across Central QLD including the Eungella Ranges and outskirts of Mackay, while isolated frost is possible across Northern QLD.

Some temperatures:
QLD: Brisbane 8ºc, Ipswich -1ºc, Gold Coast 10ºc (closer to 1 or 2ºc further Inland), Sunshine Coast 8ºc, Gatton 3ºc, Toowoomba 1ºc, Warwick -4ºc, Stanthorpe -6ºc, Dalby -4ºc, Oakey -3ºc, Roma -1ºc, Emerald 5ºc, Clermont -1ºc, Mackay 6ºc (below 0ºc over the Eungella Ranges) 

NSW: Glen Innes -8ºc, Armidale -5ºc, Guyra -5ºc, Tenterfield -4ºc, Inverell -3ºc, Tamworth -2ºc, Moree 2ºc, Grafton 1ºc, Lismore 1ºc, Casino 1ºc


OCF Forecast minimums for Wednesday morning across QLD – Image via BSCH


Frost LIKELY across SEQLD, CQLD & NENSW,2019-07-16T17:45:13+10:00
15 07, 2019

Frost LIKELY Tuesday Morning Across Southern QLD & Northern NSW


Its likely to be another freezing start to the day across Southern & South East QLD + Northern & North East NSW during Tuesday as clear skies dominate the region once again. Above image: OCF Minimums for Tuesday Morning with likely frost areas circled via BSCH.




During Tuesday morning, similarly to Monday, a large and dominant high pressure ridge is expected to remain active over the majority of QLD and NSW. This ridge is expected to continue to produce clear skies across Northern parts of NSW including the North East of the State, and Southern & Central parts of QLD including the South East corner. While conditions have been quite windy across both areas during Monday, all models are in agreement that winds are expected to ease overnight Monday into Tuesday. This easing of winds will allow frost to settle much easier and quicker, than on Monday morning for many areas. 

Light winds being indicated on models for Tuesday morning. Image via Windy.



The highest chance for frost will be across the Granite Belt, Darling Downs, Warrego & Maranoa + Inland parts of the South East Coast. In NSW, it’ll be over the Northern Tablelands, North West Slopes & Plains and Inland parts of the Northern Rivers & Mid North Coast districts. Locally moderate to heavy frost cant be ruled out across the Northern Tablelands in NSW, although conditions may be too dry for that to occur, and black frost may become a risk. 

Some temperatures for Tuesday morning:
QLD: Brisbane 7ºc, Ipswich 0ºc, Gold Coast 8ºc (likely close to 1-2ºc across Inland areas), Sunshine Coast 8ºc, Kingaroy -1ºc, Gatton 2ºc, Toowoomba 1ºc, Warwick -1ºc, Stanthorpe -3ºc, Dalby -2ºc, Oakey -2ºc, Roma 0ºc, St George 2ºc

NSW: Glen Innes -5ºc, Armidale -5ºc, Tenterfield -4ºc, Casino 2ºc, Lismore 3ºc, Grafton 2ºc, Barraba -4ºc, Moree 1ºc, Tamworth -2ºc.

Frost potenital via MetEye across SEQLD & NENSW


Frost LIKELY Tuesday Morning Across Southern QLD & Northern NSW2019-07-15T16:37:20+10:00
14 07, 2019

Light Frost Possible Across SEQLD & NENSW Monday Morning


Large parts of Southern & South East QLD as well as Northern & North East NSW are expected to see well below average minimums for Monday morning as clearer skies combine with dry winds. Above image: OCF Minimum Forecast via BSCH





A large high pressure ridge is expected to cover the majority of QLD and large parts of NSW. This ridge is expected to allow for clearing skies to dominate large parts of QLD and the majority of the Northern half of NSW (pending how far North a cluster of cloud wants to move North overnight). These clear skies will also combine with light South to South West winds across the region which will be ideal for dropping the temperature and below average temperatures becoming likely across a large area of Southern QLD and Northern NSW.



Temperatures will be great for frost across the Northern NSW Tablelands, Northern Inland NSW, Inland parts of the Northern Rivers, Inland parts of South East QLD, Inland parts of the Wide Bay, Darling Downs and Southern Inland districts – the only thing that will be hit and miss for frost will be wind speed and if the winds can remain light enough for long enough, for frost to settle.


Winds via EC / Windy showing light winds across most of SEQLD and NENSW for Monday morning (blue colouring), some light to moderate winds possible around the Ranges (green colour).



Some overnight minimums include: 
QLD: Brisbane 7ºc, Ipswich 3ºc, Gold Coast 7ºc, Sunshine Coast 7ºc, Gympie 3ºc, Gatton 3ºc, Kingaroy 1ºc, Gayndah 4ºc, Stanthorpe -2ºc, Toowoomba 3ºc, Warwick -1ºc, Oakey -1ºc, Dalby -1ºc, Miles 0ºc, Roma -1ºc, St George 1ºc.

NSW: Glen Innes -5ºc, Inverell -1ºc, Tenterfield -3ºc, Armidale -3ºc, Barraba -3ºc, Ballina 6ºc, Grafton 3ºc, Lismore 4ºc, Casino 4ºc, Moree 2ºc, Tamworth 2ºc.


Frost potential via BOM MetEye fro Monday morning.


Light Frost Possible Across SEQLD & NENSW Monday Morning2019-07-14T18:16:10+10:00
14 07, 2019

Cumulonimbus Clouds & Their Features


Cumulonimbus clouds are considered the absolute kings of the cloud world. Cumulonimbus clouds are commonly known as thunderstorm clouds, and while the bases of these clouds sit between 1,100 and 6,500ft usually.. they are the ONLY cloud in the world that takes up the entirety of the atmosphere. In fact, on rare occasions they can grow high enough to push through the troposphere into the stratosphere – they are the only cloud which has the capabilities to do this. However, they often hit the top of the troposphere and then spread outwards producing a large anvil cloud. They can sometimes also be referred to as thunderclouds, thunderheads of or thunderstorms. 

Anvil cloud associated with a cumulonimbus cloud over Africa. Image via NASA


These types of clouds produce the heaviest and fiercest precipitation on planet Earth which can include heavy to even torrential rainfall which may lead to flash flooding or river flooding, hailstones which can become extremely large along with non-precipitation features such as thunder and lightning. The bases of these clouds is usually flat, but can be extremely well defined and may only lie a few hundred feet above the surface in the nastiest of circumstances. 

Wall cloud captured by NZP Chasers


Cumulonimbus clouds develop through convection and often begin their life as innocent white fluffy puffs known as cumulus clouds which sit in the low levels of the atmosphere. As the heating of the day progresses and moisture remains or increases with temperature, the capping inversion above the surface of the earth dissipates or breaks, and allows the cumulus clouds to grow into towering cumulonimbus clouds. All the energy and power stored inside them then drives them to potentially last for several hours at a time where they can produce some of the most dangerous weather on Earth.

Cumulus field over the Arizona Mountains via Marc Cooper



As stated above, cumulonimbus clouds can produce heavy to torrential rainfall which may lead to both flash and river flooding. They can also produce hailstones, which can often reach up to the size of baseballs or softballs during the peak of the United States storm season and tennis balls or greater in the Australian storm season. They can also produce dangerous, very frequent lightning, damaging to destructive winds, deafening thunder and in the harshest of circumstances… tornadoes. While most cells less between 30 and 60 minutes, some can last more than 10-12hrs. Regardless of the duration, any cumulonimbus cloud has the potential in the right circumstances to become a danger. Some of these can be single cellular which last for a shorter duration of time, while others can become multicellular which can last for a much longer period of time. The longest form of these is typically a supercell thunderstorm which has the capabilities of producing destructive to very destructive winds, giant to monster size hailstones, torrential rainfall and tornadoes.


Tornado in Eastern Colorado captured by HSC Admin Thomas in June 2015

Cumulonimbus clouds can be categorised into 3 different types of clouds, and while each has its own individual characteristic which separates it from the rest… they all come from the same base mechanics which make them part of the cumulonimbus family. These categories are Calvus, Capillatus and Incus.

  • Cumulonimbus Calvus: The tops of these clouds are quite puffy like cumulus clouds. The water droplets at the top of the cloud however have not become frozen.

  • Cumulonimbus Capillatus: The top of these clouds are typically fibrous, but relatively contained. Water droplets have started to freeze and usually indicate that precipitation has either begun or will begin shortly.

  • Cumulonimbus Incus: The top of the cloud is both fibrous and anvil shaped as the cloud continues to grow it reaches the top of the troposphere and is forced to grow outwards rather than upwards. This creates the anvil-shaped appearance.

    Cumulonimbus calvus, with probable cumulonimbus incus in background

Cumulonimbus Clouds & Their Features2019-07-14T13:07:14+10:00
14 07, 2019

What Are Waterspouts?


Waterspouts are some of the more iconic marine severe weather phenomenons as they have the ability to develop under any weather conditions as long as the localised environment is favourable for them, they have the ability to be quite large and quite small and they also have the ability to develop as families and move over land causing damage.



Waterspouts are considered to be part of the microscale of the weather world as the environment in general that they develop in can be extremely small (less than 2km) compared to thunderstorm and supercells which are much larger and cyclones which are even larger. They can develop under any circumstances as long as the environment is supportive of their development, so this means they can form from cumulus clouds, cumulonimbus thunderstorm clouds or supercell thunderstorms. The majority of waterspouts are weak by nature and produce damage that may not even rate on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (below EF-0). Some however can become tornadic and extremely dangerous. They typically develop in heavily saturated environments where low level shear is producing enough rotation for the vortex to develop. Its not considered uncommon for several waterspouts to occur simultaneously, unlike tornadoes. Lake Michigan currently holds the visual record of 9 occurring at once in a single photo, however more may have occurred at other times but not seen. 


Twin waterspouts over Lake Michigan. Image via Office Mike Madsen


Quadruple waterspouts captured over the Adriatic Sea off Albania. Image via Robert Giudici in August 1999



Waterspouts have a distinct life cycle pattern which is unique to them and is constant for their existence. Firstly a prominent light coloured area appears on the surface of the water and this becomes surrounded by a much darker region. These coloured regions then begin to develop spirals on top of the surface of the water. Sea spray caused by the spirals and invisible tube then develop what can be loosely described as an eye. Eventually a funnel cloud will appear at the base of the cloud from which its originating and this funnel may connect with the activity occurring at the surface or it may remain “disconnected”. The final stage is when the vortex then weakens and begins to dissipate, normally the funnel will weaken first and then the spiral banding (basically in reverse order of how it developed). 


Illustration of a waterspout lifecycle and structures


Waterspouts, as part of the tornado family, are the only “species” of the family that can be labelled as tornadic or non-tornadic. Dust devils are non-tornadic, tornadoes are obviously tornadic and landspouts are non-tornadic… if they were tornadic then they would be straight out tornadoes. Both types form under different circumstances.

  • Non-Tornadic: These waterspouts are not associated with a rotating mesocyclone / supercell thunderstorm. This is the most common type of waterspout and can often occur under fair weather conditions. This is also weaker of the two types. Florida Keys in the United States sees on average the most per year, with up to 400… however this type of waterspout is most common generally in tropical and sub-tropical climates. One of its features is that it moves quite slowly.


    A large waterspout (non-tornadic) over the Florida Keys. Image via Dr. Joseph Golden in September 1969.


  • Tornadic: Yes, waterspouts are by definition tornadoes, but you can actually have a tornadic waterspout. This is one that develops with a mesocyclone present and can become very dangerous. Its essentially the same as a tornado over land… just its over water. This type of waterspout is much faster moving and can become a catastrophic danger to vessels or infrastructure out at sea. These types of waterspouts are more common through the Adriatic, Aegean and Ionian sea regions as the bulk of their thunderstorm and mesocyclone action occurs near the Coast or over open waters.


Waterspout spawned from a supercell (tornadic waterspout) observed off Sydney (during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race) in December 2001. Image via S. Golden

A common question is what can these things do to marine life. There have been many accounts across the globe where people have accurately recalled raining fish. The good thing for marine life is a waterspout will have to directly move over the top of it for any consequences to occur, the bad thing is though marine life often gets sucked up. Fish can become elevated in the clouds (not just in the vortex) and its not until the fish become too heavy for the updraft (kind of like hail) that they fall back down to Earth.. sometimes over landmass rather than water. 


What Are Waterspouts?2019-07-14T12:48:56+10:00