WEST MICHIGAN — At least two funnels, perhaps more were witnessed and reported from folks in two different West Michigan counties Tuesday evening. We had reports of a funnel around the Sunfield area in Eaton County, and another around Portland in eastern Ionia County. While many people commonly mistake these for tornadoes, they were not of that variety.
There were a few showers producing heavy rain scattered across these counties in the early evening, but severe weather was not part of those cells. These circulations were “cold air funnels”. What are they?
Cold air funnels usually never, or very rarely reach the ground. If they do, they produce minor damage with wind speeds briefly around 60 to 70 mph. Unlike their typical severe storm tornado counterparts, cold air funnels develop in a shallow cold air mass, often behind the passage of a cold front…which we had earlier in the day. These are usually weak, high-based circulations.
The mixing of cool and windy conditions in the lower troposphere (or middle atmosphere) with air in the middle troposphere flowing in a different direction, may create the rotation that spins up the funnel. If the air is moist enough and rises enough, the condensation funnel will be visible.
The photo below is from Cindy Sullivan and was taken near Portland.
The next photo below was snapped by Tim Rumfield near Sunfield in Eaton County.
To see cold air funnels in West Michigan over land is a bit unusual. We generally see them make appearances over the waters of Lake Michigan where a greater temperature variation exists. Typically, that occurs in the fall when the air aloft can be quite cool while the water temperature is reasonably warm. That temperature contrast helps spark these funnels. Recall that the term “funnel” means they do NOT come in contact with the surface.
The remainder of our week will feature mainly quiet conditions with only one more chance of showers coming Wednesday night into Thursday morning. No severe weather is expected. Get the complete forecast at www.fox17online.com/weather.