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‘Mini tornadoes’ were in fact funnel clouds, weather expert confirms

By Cambridge News  |  Posted: June 05, 2014

  • The funnel cloud witnessed by Lee Hilsden.

  • Funnel cloud spotted near Witchford.

  • The funnel cloud witnessed by Lee Hilsden.

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Excitement from people who believe they had witnessed ‘mini tornadoes’ in Cambridgeshire has been quashed by a weather expert.

Droves of people contacted the News yesterday (Wednesday) to say they had spotted what they thought were mini tornadoes twirling in the region’s skies.

But Professor Hans-F Graf, an expert in climate and weather extremes at the University of Cambridge, has confirmed that they were not mini tornadoes, but in fact funnel clouds.

Professor Graf said: “What people were witnessing in the sky was a funnel cloud.

“Funnel clouds are effectively the embryo of a tornado but a tornado has to touch the ground in order for it to be a tornado.

“Funnel clouds are not uncommon and I can see why people did think they were mini tornadoes as they do look like that from a distance.

“The whirling motion is caused by condensed water being blown downwards from the cloud, but in order for it to evolve into a tornado, the weather conditions would have to be much more extreme - certainly more extreme than what you’d expect to see here in the UK.”

Among those who thought the funnel clouds were mini tornadoes was Lee Hilsden, 28, from Haddenham.

He was on his way to a job at around 10.10am when he spotted one in the sky between Soham and Isleham.

He said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve always been interested in meteorology and have always wanted to see a tornado in the sky.”

David Wakefield and Kerry Fitch were among others who got in touch to say they had witnessed funnel clouds in the Witchford and Sutton area.

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