What Is a Landspout?

There are several types of well-known tornadoes — waterspouts, snowspouts and supercell tornadoes come to mind — but the landspout is unique because it borders the line between a full-blown tornado and a dust devil.

A meteorologist named Howard B. Bluestein dubbed these twisters landspouts in 1985.

Their formation and overall look resemble a waterspout, except that they form on land or on a surface where winds are converging.

These types of tornadoes have flat bases and a fluffy, cotton-like appearance. They ofter appear thin and rope-like.

Unlike a tornado formed by supercell thunderstorms, a landspout can form without any signs of a thunderstorm. Even more interesting, not all landspouts are visible.

Another simple way to explain how a landspout differs from a normal tornado: landspouts are formed from the bottom up in an updraft, whereas normal tornadoes funnel from the sky down to the surface.

Landspouts tend to last 15 minutes or less. They can cause damage but their winds aren't nearly as powerful as those of a supercell tornado.

They are particularly hard to forecast, as Doppler weather radar can't detect them.

You're most likely to experience a landspout in the spring or summer months, but they can occur in any month.

The National Weather Service will often refer to this type of tornado as a "dust tube tornado."

If you ever encounter one, be sure to stay away from windows. While they aren't quite as powerful as a normal tornado, their winds can shatter windows or damage possessions.