Funnel clouds spotted across southern Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. - Showers and thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday have produced torrential downpours across portions of southern Wisconsin.

But locally, heavy rain isn't the only atmospheric phenomenon in these storms. 

Weak funnel clouds have been observed in two thunderstorms this week. The first, more substantial funnel cloud was photographed by Mark Schneeberg in New Glarus on Wednesday.

On Thursday, a quick funnel formed over Platteville, which we were able to spot on our Queen B Radio Skycam. 



Neither of these storms was severe and did not warrant any type of warning on them. 

So, why haven't meteorologists been sounding the alarm?

It's important to remember the differences between funnel clouds and tornadoes.

The biggest contrast concerns the wind circulation reaching the ground. With a tornado, the wind circulation is likely picking up dirt or debris, while a funnel cloud does not. Tornadoes can cause significant damage, while funnels usually dissipate quickly and do not cause damage. 

Sometimes a tornado may be on the ground without a visible funnel cloud. 

Funnel clouds can become tornadoes, and tornadoes can lift back into funnel clouds. It all depends on what's happening on the ground. 

Low pressure aloft has been providing a little bit of spin and instability, and the tropical air mass we've been sweltering under has been giving us ample moisture. Put those things together, and you have the recipe for some brief funnel clouds in non-severe storms. 

Sometimes, however, these funnels are so low in the sky that radar doesn't pick them up. As a result, be ready to take shelter whenever a thunderstorm moves through. 

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