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Waterspout, a rare weather phenomenon, reported from the Pakistani coast

Posted on 2 March 2016

Karachi, A WWF-Pakistan trained fisherman, Mahar Gul, has reported a rare weather phenomenon previously unknown from Pakistan coast. The fisherman, hailing from Lower Dir, observed a fair-weather waterspout in offshore watersnear Sakoni (off Kalmat Khor), Balochistan. While fishing for tuna in the offshore waters of Pakistan about 25 nautical from the coastline, he observed a specular waterspout which looked similar to a tornado.

A waterspout,unlike its name, is not filled with water but is a column of cloud-filled wind rotating overthe ocean’ssurface. It descends from a cumulus cloud and the water inside a waterspout is formed by condensation in the cloud. There are two types of waterspouts i.e. tornadic and fair-weather. The clouds from which waterspouts descend are not fast-moving, so fair-weather waterspouts are often static. Both waterspouts require high levels of humidity and a relatively warm water temperature compared to the overlying air. Waterspouts are most common in tropical and subtropical waters but no authentic record of their occurrence is known from Pakistan coast.

Mahar Gul, Nakhuda of the fishing boat Hammalimmediately started recording the event on his mobile phone, but avoided coming close to the vortex created by the waterspout. He observeda large patch of cloud on the morning of 28 February 2016 over a clear sky and sunny day,from which thewaterspout could be seen descending. According to Mahar Gul, he observed another such event about 20 yearsagonear Jiwani, Balochistan; local fishermen avoid approaching such waterspouts which canbe dangerous and may damage fishing boats.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan,fair weather waterspouts are usually formed along the cumulus type of clouds. This type of waterspout is generally not associated with thunderstorms which usually dissipate in short time. The average spout is around 50 meters in diameter, with wind speeds of 80 kilometres per hour. Most waterspouts last for up to one hour, though the average lifetime is just 5 to 10 minutes. The formation of a waterspout takes place over five stages; first stage is the formation of a disk on the surface of water, known as a dark spot; second stage is a spiral pattern on the water surface; thirdstage is a formation of a spray ring; fourth stage is where the waterspout becomes a visible funnel; and the lifecycle ends and fifth stage is where the waterspout decays.

According to Khan, it is a natural phenomenon of rare occurrence. These waterspouts can be both beautiful as well as dangerous. Theyhave been known to overturn boats, damage large ships, and put lives in jeopardy. WWF-Pakistan has appreciated the alertness and vision of the fishermen who have been trained to record rare events such as waterspout and occurrence and release of rare animals.


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