Andrew Pritchard
Image taken:
Oct. 3, 2010
Deep Lake, Oxford, Wisconsin, USA
While at the lake house in central Wisconsin during the area's first hard freeze, temperatures plunged to at or below 30F. With water temperatures in the lake still above 60F, I figured photogenic morning steam would be a sure thing. I ended up with that and more, as steam devils, or little vortices in the steam started sprouting up around sunrise. Essentially these guys form under the same conditions that drive dust devils, as well as water spouts and land spout tornadoes, on a much much smaller scale of course. Little areas of vorticity would be present as the very light winds roll the steam across the lake surface, while little updrafts due to the instability in the lowest of levels stretches the vorticity into at times tight little circulations in the steam. Pretty mesmerizing stuff to watch as they really do resemble little water spouts. I ended up almost core punching one on the row boat just after sunrise and noticed they even created little "swirl" regions at the surface of the water and base of the vortex, exactly as water spouts do. Unfortunately this was too difficult to actually document visually. Video as well:
©2013, -- This site is penned daily by Dr. Tony Phillips.