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Cold air funnels spotted across Devils Lake Basin

Evan Schoenfish; Penn, ND

Weather spotters in the Devils Lake Basin and surrounding areas have snapped several photos of cold air funnels across the region.

Alex Edwards is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck. He says cold air funnels rarely show up on radar, so photos and reports of them have been helpful. But he says conditions for these funnels have been perfect today.

"The main cause of them is when you have both instability in the atmosphere when air's being drawn up in the atmosphere, and you have a source of spin," Edwards said. "So the analogy is kind of like a figure skater pulling her arms in and spinning faster; that's essentially what we have going on here. We have a low pressure off in the western portion of the state overheard, and a low pressure, the air spins, and instability, so that's getting pulled up. And it's causing this spinning rotation and the rotation of these funnel clouds."

Fortunately, Edwards says these types of funnel clouds are rarely dangerous.

"This isn't the same process as a normal tornado that you'd see in a severe weather setup, and rarely do you ever see these types of funnels touch the ground. They're normally harmless. They occasionally touch the ground and can cause minor damage, so I would still be wary of them and seek shelter if you saw one. But for the most part, they usually hang around the elevation you see in these photos - which is just part-ways down from the cloud base."

Edwards says conditions for these funnels may persist throughout the afternoon and evening, but will dissipate once darkness settles in.

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