There was panic in the English town of Hartlepool on Sunday as people spotted what appeared to be an ominous tornado gathering overhead.
— Ian Britton (@ianbritton) May 22, 2016
— Trevor Davies (@TrevorDavies33) May 22, 2016
Twister in Hartlepool? Wut
— Kez (@KezT8) May 22, 2016
— Toni Gate-Lutz (@Tiorli) May 22, 2016
The UK is not commonly associated with tornados, hence the surprise and even alarm at Sunday’s weather system.
Casual photo of a twister in Hartlepool pic.twitter.com/4BdRIyUClk
— lliam (@LliamCasey99) May 22, 2016
— john bond (@bondjohn) May 22, 2016
— kenny hay (@kennyhay1) May 22, 2016
However, BBC Weather was quick to dismiss the scary twister as a “funnel cloud.”
A funnel cloud is a sort of pre-tornado. Tornados begin as funnel clouds: when the funnel cloud reaches the ground, it’s considered a tornado. Alternately, if the funnel hits water, it’s considered a waterspout, the Met Office points out.
Funnel clouds originate from thunderstorm clouds, when rotating updrafts “lift the air into a vertical position and then rapid rotation starts to develop and a mesocyclone is born,” UK Weather Forecast explains.
A number of funnel clouds have been spotted in the UK recently, prompting confusion among residents.
— steve price (Loopz) (@steveloopzprice) May 18, 2016
— #eustorm (@EUStormMap) May 11, 2016
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— Barlow Believer (@Kath_RV73) May 22, 2016
It is not a tornado but just look like a funnel cloud with a weak EF0 tornado in Littlehampton, UK pic.twitter.com/RrCXMAUuny
— Joint Cyclone Center (@JointCyclone) September 2, 2015
It may come as a surprise to learn that the UK has about 30 tornados per year, which is (when measured by land mass) more than the US.
According to UK Weather Forecast, November 23, 1981, saw 105 tornadoes hit the UK in just six hours.
Although UK tornados are generally of a smaller scale than those seen in movies like Twister and Sharknado, a 2005 Birmingham tornado caused a lot of damage.
Despite this scary footage, it’s nothing when compared to the tornados experienced in the US.