A waterspout is an intense columnar vortex (usually appearing as a funnel-shaped cloud) that occurs over a body of water. They are connected to a towering cumuliform cloud or a cumulonimbus cloud. In the common form, it is a non-supercell tornado over water.
While it is often weaker than most of its land counterparts, stronger versions spawned by mesocyclones do occur. Waterspouts do not suck up water; they are small and weak rotating columns of air over water.
While waterspouts form mostly in the tropics and subtropical areas, other areas also report waterspouts, including Europe, New Zealand, the Great Lakes and Antarctica. Although rare, waterspouts have been observed in connection with lake-effect snow precipitation bands.
Waterspouts have a five-part life cycle: formation of a dark spot on the water surface, spiral pattern on the water surface, formation of a spray ring, development of the visible condensation funnel, and ultimately decay.