waterspout lake ontario

Lake Ontario expected to see icy waterspouts caused by Arctic cold system

If you're on or near Lake Ontario amid this bitter arctic cold snap, first off, what the heck are you doing right now? However, if your eyes haven't yet frozen shut, you might just witness an extreme cold weather phenomenon out on the lake Friday and into Saturday.

According to the International Centre for Waterspout Research (ICWR), a phenomenon called winter waterspouts can occur over the Great Lakes under extreme conditions, and with Toronto feeling as cold as -30 C on Friday morning, there is a good chance of these icy vortices forming in view of the city's waterfront.

"Did you know waterspouts occur during the winter over the Great Lakes?," reads a tweet from the ICWR, explaining that "they form during an Arctic outbreak of very cold air," and warning anyone on the lake to "Expect them to develop through to Saturday."

The Weather Network states that winter waterspouts form just like regular waterspouts, though much rarer in frequency.

"Cool (in this case, bitterly cold) air passes over the comparatively warmer lakes. Add a bit of wind shear to the rising air, and voila: Rotation," explains The Weather Network.

As the cold front put Lake Ontario in its crosshairs on Thursday, storm chaser David Piano tweeted the ominous message, "I'm convinced the waters of the Great Lakes are the real tornado alley everyone has overlooked."

In a follow-up tweet, he explains why the network of massive freshwater bodies is a hotbed of vortex activity.

Toronto has experienced some wild winter phenomena that help it live up to its cold-weather reputation in recent years.

Last winter, locals saw all sorts of bizarre cold-weather occurrences like mysterious light pillars stretching into the sky, dramatic walls of fog rolling in off the lake, ice pancakes forming on the waterfront, ice jellyfish, and even dangerous "ice volcanoes".

The 2022-23 winter season started off much milder than the previous year's, but the deep freeze has finally arrived in full force to kick off February, and Toronto can expect to see all sorts of weird winter phenomena in the days and weeks to come.

Lead photo by

NOAA Photo Library


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