MacDougal catches waterspouts

ESSEX - While he has not videotaped the elusive creature of Lake Champlain, Andy MacDougal does have video and photographic proof of something that is seldom seen on its shores: a waterspout.

"Before my video, winter waterspouts were only photographed five times - ever," MacDougal said. "I didn't realize that it was so rare at the time."

MacDougal said Lake Champlain may not be alone with the phenomenon that is a waterspout.

"There may very well be these waterspouts over the great lakes or other large fresh water bodies quite often, yet nobody there to catch it on film," MacDougal said. "The folks I contacted at the NOAA (National Oceanice and Atmospheric Administration) were quite excited about the video and did the extensive write up."

MacDougal said the first waterspout sighting he had was on Jan. 15, 2009, and he sent the information to the NOAA, which then published a story based on his findings and results.

Most recently, MacDougal recorded a double waterspout along the Essex shoreline of Lake Champlain the day after Christmas, watching as the two waterspouts moved around between the water and the clouds.

"There are actually two visible waterspouts, one quite thin and moving from left to right across my screen, and one that develops into a larger funnel and remained mostly stationary," he said.

According to NOAA, a waterspout is a narrow, rotating column of air that forms over water, and appears as a condensation funnel which extends from the water surface to a cumuliform cloud above.

What makes the formation of a waterspout on Lake Champlain even more amazing is the fact that NOAA states they are more commonly found in warmer, not colder, climates.

"Waterspouts are most common in tropical environs (e.g., near the Florida Keys), but have been documented in arctic air masses," said the NOAA release which accompanied MacDougal's waterspout findings. "Unlike tornadoes - which typically develop with supercell thunderstorms - waterspouts are commonly observed from just modest lines of cumulus congestus clouds, as occurred over Lake Champlain on 15 January 2009."

MacDougal said he hopes others will now keep their eyes on the lake in search of the rare waterspouts that appear to climb from the lake and into the heavens.

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