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Landspout vs. Tornado, What's the Difference?

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -  Storms moving through Eastern Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon produced a landspout.

Our Facebook fans in the Des Arc and Cotton Plant areas sent in photos and video of the weather phenomenon which looks like a tornado, but isn't.

KARK Meteorologist Hayden Nix has this explanation on the difference between the two:

A landspout is classified as a type of tornado, but it forms differently than a tornado we commonly have occur here in Arkansas

Tornadoes form from supercell thunderstorms. These thunderstorms have rotating updrafts we call mesocyclones. They can become strong enough to stretch a spinning column of air from inside the thunderstorm that can eventually reach the surface. Once it makes contact with the ground it becomes a tornado.

A landspout is a non-supercell tornado. The circulation forms from the convergence of surface boundaries and with the help of a thunderstorm updraft, the circulation is then pulled upwards to the base of the thunderstorm.

Their appearance is thin and rope-like and are short-lived, only lasting for a few minutes. 

Landspouts very rarely cause damage due to weak winds associated with them but some can have strong winds.  


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