I have found this week entry on the "Gallery" via a Google search. Someone was selling a beautiful lithography from 1828 entitle "Phénomène de trombes marines" for the small sum of £1200. The lithography showed a series of waterspouts and my initial thinking was that this is an artistic representations of various types waterspouts  (similar with the "Diagram of Meteorology" by John Emslie). Since I was curious to find more about it, I have tried to find a high resolution reproduction. I have found one in the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which is showed bellow.  

The caption reads: "Waterspouts phenomenon observed in the sea of Sicily [i.e., Tyrrhenian Sea], toward Stromboli [showed on the left of the image] 27 June 1827, and drawn by L. Mazzara [i.e., Louis Mazzara], aboard the brigantine Portia, Cabbage captain, when the ship fired on the waterspout [showed on the right of the image]." Félix Achille Saint-Aulaire made the engraving based on a drawing by Louis Mazzara and the lithography was published in 1828 by Godefroy Engelmann. Unfortunately, I could not find more informations about this event except for a short description in "Météorologie" (1841) by Jean Charles Athanase Peltier which indicated that the lithography shows a family of seven waterspouts. This is similar with another event that occurred on August 1999 between Corfu and Othonoi islands, in Greek waters, which shows a family of four waterspouts.  [Thanks to Stavros Dafis, who is studying this event, for providing informations on the location.]

Waterspouts between Corfu and Othonoi islands, in Greek waters on August 1999. The picture was taken by Roberto Giudici on a boat trip to Brindisi (Italy) (©Roberto Giudici).

If you have other informations about the event form 27 June 1827, I would be very interested to hear from you and understand more about the story behind the lithography.  

AuthorBogdan Antonescu

On the morning of 4 January 1789, M. Michaud corresponding member of the Academy of Science of Turin at Nice observed "an immense group of clouds like towers piling up". This not only drew his attention but also allowed him to make a prediction to his two older sons:

[...] nous aurions bein pu decouvrir quelque trombe de mer dans la journee
(we could discover some waterspouts during the day)
— [Michaud 1801, p. 5]

Approximately two hours later at 10:05 am, Michaud observed at sea the "embrion of a waterspout" surrounded by "high plumes like sails pushed by the wind toward the surface" (a in Fig. 1). The structure narrowed and  was later observed as a "column of fog" over land (b in Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 - The "embrion of a waterspout" at Nice on 6 January 1789.

At 11:52 am the confirmation of Michaud's  prediction arrived, as his second son, now in charge with the observations, shouted: "Mon Pere, une trombe de mer superbe!" (Michaud 1801, p. 6).  Fig. 2 shows the "superb" waterspout "passing majestically in front of Nice". The base of the waterspout, which was as the beginning "calm" was now "a veritable volcano crater" with parabolic jets of water emerging from the centre. As Michaud and his sons were watching this "extraordinary spectacle" hail (1-1.5 cm in diameter) begin to fall.

Fig. 2 - The first waterspout observed at Nice on 6 January 1789. 

Soon after, a second waterspout begin to form and was observed initially only at the surface of the sea (a in Fig. 3). The vertical structure of the waterspout became apparent (c in Fig. 3) once the pendant structure from the cloud indicated as (b) in Fig. 3 moved over the sea surface structure. 

Fig. 3 - The evolution of the second waterspout observed at Nice on 6 January 1879.

The account of the waterspouts from 4 January together with some speculations regarding their formation were published by Michaud in Memoires de l'Academie de Turin in 1801. This account contains, to my knowledge, the first verified waterspout forecast for Europe.  The article, which also contains a description of two waterspouts observed in 19 March 1789 Nice (Fig. 4) was translated to German an published in Annalen der Physik in 1801. 

Fig. 4 - Waterspouts observed at Nice on 19 March 1789.


Michaud, 1801: Observations sur les trombes de mer vues de Nice en 1789, le 6 Janvier et le 19 Mars. Memoires de l' Acad. de Turin, Tome 6, p. 322. (via gallica.bnf.fr).

AuthorBogdan Antonescu

In January this year, as part of my research project on severe storms in Europe with AXA Research Fund, I have started to develop a sounding climatology for Europe inspired by the one developed for the United States.  Instead of having the climatology on my computer I have developed a shiny app in R Studio so that anyone can access the data and build their own plots. The climatology can be accessed at: https://bogdansapps.shinyapps.io/soundings/

The climatology is based on European soundings between 1980 and 2014 at 0000 UTC and 1200 UTC. The data are extracted from Atmospheric Soundings - Wyoming Weather Web. I have used a small number of thermodynamic parameters (i.e., CAPE, CIN, EL, LFC, temperature at the LCL and the average mixing ratio in the lowest 500 m as described here) and I am planning to add more parameters (e.g., vertical wind shear) based on your suggestions. 

To generate a plot you need first to select the time (0000 UTC or 1200 UTC) and then the sounding site by selecting the country and the city. The plot would show the annual distribution of the selected parameter (green line) and the moving median/mean (orange line). The number of days in the moving median/mean can be changed to any odd number. The 25th-75th, 10th-90th percentile and the minimum and maximum can also be added to the plot. 

Mouse over the plot would give you the exact values for a certain day. You can also zoom in by holding the left click on the mouse and drawing a rectangle on the plot, or you can select a time interval in the line plot beneath the main one. The values form the latest soundings can also be added to the plot by selecting "add the latest sounding". 

This is a test version of the sounding climatology and I would much appreciate any suggestion on how to improve it. 

AuthorBogdan Antonescu

One of the few tornadoes reported in Romania during the socialist period (19451989, Antonescu and Bell 2015) occurred on 9 May 1963 at Satu Mare (Raionul Rădăuți in 1963, Suceava County today, Fig. 1). In the same year an article, analysing the evolution of the tornado, was published by V. Țigănescu in Natura (The Nature) a scientific journal devoted to Geography and Geology*.  The article contains probably the most detailed description of the evolution, damages and atmospheric conditions associated with a tornado that occurred in Romania before 2002, when an F3+ long-track tornado crossing through southeastern Romania was responsible for at least three fatalities in the village of Făcăeni (Lemon et al. 2003). Țigănescu (1963) mentions at the beginning of the article, that tornadoes (he uses landspouts - trombe de uscat) do occur in Romania but they are rare events and that the tornado from Satu Mare offers a good opportunity to analyse them. 

Fig. 1 - Spatial distribution of tornado reports during the socialist period (7 reports between 1945 and 1989) in Romania. Tornadoes were classified according to their intensity on the F scale for weak tornadoes (F0 or F1) (yellow) and significant tornadoes (F2 and F3) (red). Tornadoes for which an estimation of the intensity was not possible are represented in blue. The yellow rectangle highlights the location of the Satu Mare tornado. [Adapted from Fig. 4 in Antonescu and Bell 2015.]

The tornado was first observed around 12:30 local time (14:30 UTC) as "a column of dens air stretching form the clouds to the ground". At the beginning, a fifth of the column was black and the rest was white. Once the funnel cloud reached the ground, the base of the column darkened and the debris clearly indicated the rotation of the column (Fig. 2). Based on eyewitnesses reports and damages surveys, Țigănescu (1963) estimated that hight of the "column" was 600–800 m with a diameter of 3040 m, the path length was approximately 5.5 km from southeast to northwest and the duration between 15–20 minutes. (Some of the eyewitnesses described the tornado as a dragon, see this post for more details about the dragons and tornadoes in Romania.) 

After a short description of the atmospheric conditions associated with the tornado occurrence, Țigănescu (1963) concluded that tornadoes can occur in other parts of Romania if "the right conditions arise" (i.e., "an exceptional difference in air density in a relatively small space") and that some of these tornadoes can be high impact events. Unfortunatelly, Țigănescu's study did not had an impact on the meteorological community and for the next 25 years was believed that tornadoes do not occur in Romania (Antonescu and Bell 2015).  

Fig. 2 - The tornado seen from northwest (left) and west (right). The phases indicates the descent of the funnel cloud. This is one of the earliest representation of a tornado published in the Romanian scientific literature. [Adapted from Figs. 3 and 4 in Tiganescu (1963).]

[*) The article:  Țigănescu, V, 1963: Tromba de uscat de la Satu Mare - Rădăuți. Natura (Seria Geografie-Geologie), 5, 43–51, is available here, courtesy of the University of Manchester Library and "Carol I" Central University Library in Bucharest. ]

AuthorBogdan Antonescu
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In his historical review of tornadoes in Italy Peterson (1998, p. 125) mentioned that "the first published drawing of  a waterspout was an observation by de Monconys 31 December 1648 near Sardinia, published in 1665". Unfortunately,  Peterson (1998) does not contain the drawing or the reference to the original publication. Since I was curious to see this drawing, I have tried to find  the original publication.  Soon enough  I have discovered that the drawing  appeared in Journal de voyages de Monsieur de Monconys, Conseiller du Roy en ses conseils d'estat & privé, & Lieutenant Criminel au Siege Presidial de Lyon (The travel journal of Monsieur de Monconys, King's Advisor in State and Private Councils, and Magistrate in the Judicial tribunal of Lyon)*.  

Balthasar de Monconys (16111665) was a French diplomat, physicist and magistrate born in Lyon who, throughout his life, travelled widely across Europe and Middle East in an attempt to rediscover the sources of teachings of Pythagoras,  Zoroaster and Greek and Arabic alchemists. De Monconys left a diary, which was published in three volumes between 16651666  by his son Gaspard de Monconys de Liergues.  In his diary, de Monconys included a vast range of topics from medical recipes, chemistry experiments and discussions on esoteric sciences to mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, zoology,  medicine and meteorology.

The first volume of Monconys's diary contains descriptions of his travels between 16451649 to Portugal, Provence, Italy, Syria, Anatolia and Constantinople.  On 31 December 1648 de Monconys noted in his diary

We have arrived close to Tolara, an island joined to Sardinia. There I drew the figure of a siphon**
— (du Monconys, 1665, p.486)
Waterspouts off the coast of Sardinia on 31 December 1648 (de Moncoys 1665, p. 464).

Waterspouts off the coast of Sardinia on 31 December 1648 (de Moncoys 1665, p. 464).

Unfortunately, de Monconys is not providing other details about these waterspouts and it does not seams to be threatened or impressed by their sight. This may suggest that de Monconys had observed waterspouts (or tornadoes) before, or at least was aware of their existence.


* The complete reference is: de Monconys, B., 1665: Journal de voyages de Monsieur Monconys, Conseiller du Roy en ses conseils d'estat & priué, & Lieutenant Criminel au Siege Presidial de Lyon. Où les Sçavants trouveront un nombre infini de nouveautez, en Machines de Mathematique,  Experiences Physiques, Raisonnemens de la belle Philosophie, curiositez de Chymie, & conversations des Illustres de ce Siecle; Outre la description de diuers Animaux & Plantes rares, plusieurs Secrets inconnus pour le Plaisir & la Santé, les Ouvrages des Peintres fameux, les Coûtumes & Moeurs des Nations, & ce qu'il y a de plus digne de la connoissance d'un honeste Homme dans les trois Parties du Monde. Enrichi de quantité de Figures en Taille-douce des lieux & des choses principales, avec des Indices tres-exacts & tres commodes pour l'usage. Lyon, p. 491.

** From Ancient Greek: σίφων "pipe, tube", also called syphon.

AuthorBogdan Antonescu