Every now and then you hear in the news about a funnel cloud sighting in Alaska. Most people think it’s a hoax. But it is not. Funnel clouds can occur in Alaska under certain weather conditions. In contrast to the tornadoes in Tornado Alley, the terrain causes Alaska’s tornadoes. And, we just recently had one again. Read how I reacted.
- Funnel Clouds also Exist in Alaska
- This Week’s Tornado over Fairbanks
- How Alaska Funnel Clouds Form
- Casual Friday Spring Look
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Funnel Clouds also Exist in Alaska
Did you know that there are tornadoes in Alaska? No kidding, I am serious. Of course, they don’t have a foot print as large as the ones in Tornado Alley. However, there are 44 documented cases of funnel clouds in Alaska!
I have seen once three funnel clouds at the same time over the Tanana Flats looking south from the UAF campus. Unfortunately, I had no camera with me. Another time, I saw a funnel cloud right over Fairbanks from my office window (see photo above). Again, I had my camera at home. I ran into my colleagues office as I knew she always has her iPhone handy.
I was so excited and yelled “There is a funnel cloud out there. Get your iPhone to make a photo.” In that very moment, I feared the funnel may have already vanished, and she would think I am crazy and/or that I fell asleep on my desk and just woke up after having a nightmare. But the cloud was still there, and she took photos.
This Week’s Tornado over Fairbanks
This month we had again a funnel cloud event. However, I did learn about it from my student. He had seen the article, and photo in the Fairbanks Newsminer. The tornado did not cause damage. My student and I did a lot of research on Alaska funnel clouds. They are boundary clouds in contrast to those in Tornado Alley, which are from supercell thunderstorms.
How Alaska Funnel Clouds Form
Alaska funnel clouds build under certain conditions as an interaction of the local terrain caused weather and the large-scale weather situation. The local mountains force the wind in the lower 1 km or so to blow in a different direction than the wind above. This causes rotation. If the atmosphere is moist enough, you can see it as funnels.
Such weather situations may occur from spring to fall.Did you know that there are funnel clouds in Alaska? #Alaska #funnelcloud Click To Tweet
Have you ever seen a funnel cloud? Do you live in an area where funnel clouds or tornadoes occur? Let me know, I am curious.
You may be interested in other Alaska nature features like the Denali Fault or permafrost.
Casual Friday Spring Look
As you see there is still quite some snow on the ground. Nevertheless, it gets warmer and spring is progressing every day. This Look of the Day keeps me warm and the lighter colors all read spring, even when the landscape doesn’t look like it yet. Layering is key here.
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Edwin, S., 2016. Climatology and forcing mechanisms of funnel clouds in Alaska. MS. Thesis, Dept. Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Edwin, S. , Mölders, N. , Friedrich, K. , Schmidt, S. and Thoman, R., 2017. Conditions Supporting Funnel Cloud Development in Alaska. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 7, 223-245. doi: 10.4236/acs.2017.72016.
Photos of me: G. Kramm
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