In the introduction to my coffee table book on tornadoes and waterspouts in Europe, I wrote that there are still more historical depictions of these meteorological phenomena in libraries and archives across Europe waiting to be re-discovered. A tweet posted recently by Warrington Museum showed that I was right. The tweet was companied by a beautiful depiction of the "singular phenomena" that occurred on 16 June 1798 in the neighbourhood of Warrington. Almost immediately I contacted Warrington Archives and Local History and they were very helpful in providing more details about the event, details published in an article in The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle in August 1799. A transcript of the article is shown below.

[...] A dark thick cloud of a considerable extent and forming almost a direct line parallel to the horizon lowered over part of the adjoining country, chiefly Cheshire, when towards the centre a water spout of immense magnitude appeared lengthening by degrees until it assumed a formidable appearance in the shape of a sugar loaf reversed and extending from base to point to the eye of the spectator nearly 1-16th of the whole hemisphere.  It moved in a curvilinear form the point inclining from the South, the cloud stretching out due North and South. It frequently varied its size sometimes extending within a few feet of the ground then seemingly drawn upwards. At one time it remained stationary in respect to form and situation for near ten minutes but never burst not meeting as supposed with attracting fluid which at sea serves to form that immense body of water which at last breaks from its own weight. After varying its length for some moments longer it entirely disappeared and was embodied in the cloud. Between the cloud and the horizon the sky appeared a dusky yellow which served to mark the dark edge of the cloud and the waterspout with a peculiar gloom. After the appearance of this phaenomenon there was scarce a day passed here for the continuance of nearly a month that it did not rain in perfect torrent. Its appearances were during the time of the Newton races to the no little dismay of the crowd assembled on that occasion and to the horror of the farmers who foreboded in consequence some most melancholy catastrophe to their harvest. I send you a drawing taken on the spot of the singular appearance it presented.
— The Gentleman's Magazine, and Historical Chronicle (1799)
 The "singular phenomena" observed on 16 June 1798 in the neighbourhood of Warrington (courtesy of Warrington Archives and Local History, Culture Warrington).

The "singular phenomena" observed on 16 June 1798 in the neighbourhood of Warrington (courtesy of Warrington Archives and Local History, Culture Warrington).

Form the description is not clear if this event was indeed a tornado, a waterspout, or a funnel cloud that extended very closed to the ground. Nevertheless, this is another great example of how detailed and beautiful are some of the historical descriptions and depictions of tornadoes, waterspouts, and funnel clouds in Europe. 

(Many thanks, to David Gelsthorpe (@paleomanchester) from the Manchester Museum for pointing to me the tweet from Warrington Museum (@warringtonmus), and to Warrington Archives and Local History, Culture Warrington for their help. #archivescience #explorearchives.)

AuthorBogdan Antonescu