Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Sunday, 6 July 2008 17:24 UK

Stormy weather forms funnel cloud

Funnel cloud near Scarisbrick, West Lancashire (Pic courtesy of Ken Bowden)
The funnel cloud could have caused serious damage had it touched down

Stormy weather across Lancashire and Merseyside has resulted in a funnel cloud forming in the sky.

The cloud, which is effectively a tornado which does not touch the ground, was spotted at about 1430 BST.

If the funnel had touched down it would have caused severe damage, a Met Office spokesman said.

Such clouds are formed when strong storms, often together with thunderstorms, amass where the wind blows in different directions.

'Excellent examples'

Nigel Bolton, a weather forecaster with the Met Office added: "We have about 30 to 40 touchdown tornadoes a year in the UK and if this funnel cloud had touched down it could have badly damaged a tree or a shed roof.

"However, because the cloud base was either too high or too weak it couldn't make the ground so it just hung there in suspension.

Funnel cloud near Burscough, Lancashire (pic courtesy of Mike Ellison)
In the UK they tend to be rain-wrapped so you don't see them but this one was forming under a cloud that wasn't yet raining
Nigel Bolton, Met Office forecaster

"In the UK they are quite common but they are not generally as good as this - these photos are excellent examples of a funnel cloud as they do not usually tend to be so well formed.

"In the UK they tend to be rain-wrapped so you don't see them but this one was forming under a cloud that wasn't yet raining.

"As soon as it started to rain, the funnel would collapse."

According to Mr Bolton, who is also a member of the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation, funnel clouds are similar to a vortex of water seen when a plug is removed from a bath.

Police and Fire Services in Merseyside and Lancashire said there had been no reports of any damage caused by the funnel cloud.




SEE ALSO
Expert dismisses 'tornado' claim
05 Jun 08 |  Suffolk
How a tornado is formed
08 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Twister clouds surprise residents
02 Aug 05 |  Bristol/Somerset

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