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Watch: Large ‘waterspout tornado’ off coast of Brittany

The relatively rare meteorological phenomenon was spotted in Finistère this week, prompting an expert to explain how they happen

A photo of a small ‘waterspout tornado’ in a stormy sky off a coast

The ‘waterspout’ phenomenon is relatively rare in Brittany but one witness described it as ‘impressive’ (image for illustration only) Pic: Skreidzeleu / Shutterstock

A large ‘waterspout’ has appeared off the coast of Finistère in Brittany, in an impressive example of the rare meteorological phenomenon.

Waterspouts appear in the shape of a tornado but are actually seawater, and hover above the sea. This one was seen on November 1 off the coast of Penmarc’h.

Déborah Le Palud, who owns a salon on the coast, told Ouest France: “It was impressive. The sky was dark and the rain was intense [and then I saw] a big line taking shape. It was spinning and picking up big swathes of water.”

The meteorological event is rare.

Steven Tual, the meteorologist at Météo Bretagne, explained how it happens. He said: “The air at altitude is cold and the sea is relatively warm, at 16-17°C. [This combination causes] winds that turn in circles.

“[This makes the conditions] favourable to the formation of waterspouts,” he said. “These form under cumulonimbus clouds, which are storm clouds.”

Mr Tual said that waterspouts are rather “atypical” in Brittany, but that they “are not so rare either”. They generally remain in the sea, but can sometimes approach land.

Another witness, Ludovic Guennec, who appeared to be very well-travelled, said that he had also seen similar spouts in “the sea in Ireland, off the coast of Africa, and on the way to the Kerguelen Islands [islands in the French southern Antarctic].” 

The ‘sea tornado’ comes after several real (and much more destructive) wind tornadoes have hit France in recent months. These include incidents in Hauts-de-France, Normandy, and Pas-de-Calais.

Similarly, a ‘dust devil’ mini-tornado was spotted in a wheat field in a village in Loire-Atlantique in July.

Related articles 

Dozens of homes destroyed as mini tornadoes hit north France villages

Pas-de-Calais tornado: Why is it not an official ‘natural disaster’?

Video: A ‘dust devil’ mini-tornado hits wheat field in western France

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