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Walkin' past winter waterspouts: rare footage captured on Lake Superior

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An attentive Minnesotan traveling Lake Superior's North Shore has provided the weather world with footage of the rare meteorological phenomenon known as a winter waterspout.

Jason Deters shot the video near Knife River earlier this month and posted it to YouTube. It shows warm water spiraling upward from the lake into the much colder clouds in a shape a little like a tornado.

Several spouts are visible late in Deters' video and Michigan weather blogger Mark Torregrossa wrote in a post last week that Deters estimated he saw twenty waterspouts on Dec. 7.

According to the science writer at, the Weather Channel says there are only half a dozen known photos of winter waterspouts.

The spouts only occur when the air over the lake is considerably colder than the water temperature. Torregrossa writes that on Dec. 7 the lake water was about 50 degrees warmer than the 11 degrees below zero recorded in those clouds 5,000 feet up.

Deters first shared the video with Minnesota Public Radio's Paul Huttner, who provides charts of the air and water temperatures that day.

Waterspouts are more common during the summer months. Scientists are still learning about the winter version, along with a land-based cousin called the snownado, AccuWeather reports.

Some of the best footage of winter waterspouts came from Lake Champlain in January of 2009.

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