Tornado mystery

Sunday, June 8, 2008
Issue 368, Page 1
Word count: 390
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

What appeared to be a tornado was sighted at about 11.30am in Sai Van yesterday, however experts disagree about what the weather phenomenon really was.

An alert Macau Daily Times reader was on the spot and managed to snap the giant weather formation hovering over the city.

Olavo Rasquinho, secretary of the Typhoon Committee, said the photo definitely captured a tornado moving through Macau, but it was a weak version and “hadn’t reached a mature status”.

“As it seems to be over land it is surely a tornado,” Mr Rasquinho said.

According to the secretary, a tornado is a “violent rotating column of air and water droplets between the surface of the earth and the base of cumulonimbus cloud”.

The Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau (SMG) disagreed and suggested the photo was a “fake”.

The bureau did not have any reports of a tornado or anything similar, said the duty forecaster Wong Ngai Kin.

A group of SMG senior meteorological technicians who analysed the photo said the funnel formation appears to be hovering over Wan Chai River. The narrow width of the river rules out a tornado or waterspout – term for the phenomenon over water -, said Mr Wong.

In addition, the SMG experts said the width of the funnel should be less than half of what it appears to be in the picture if it was a tornado, adding that Macau’s topography is “unfavourable” for the wind storm.

According to SMG, Macau does not have a history of tornadoes, but a report of a waterspout has been received previously. However the SMG is not equipped with any tornado detection facilities.

The Public Security Police also said they had not received any reports of damage in the area.

The report came during an otherwise wild weather day in the city. Torrential rain poured for a second day and by 5pm 152.8 millimetres of rain had been recorded in the peninsula.

During the afternoon a violent thunderstorm passed over the city. Some 150 lightening strikes were recorded in the area.

The rain is not unusual for this time of year, said Mr Wong. The highest day’s rainfall ever recorded during June was 304.3 millimetres. On Friday 211.6 millimetres of rain was recorded in the peninsula.

The rainfall is expected to ease today with cloudy skies to be broken by sunny intervals.

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