Waterspout over Pearl River off Shenzhen Bao’an Airport

Apple Daily and the Standard reported a ‘tornado’ as Shenzhen was battered by thunderstorms and rain yesterday (11th May 2015). As the tornado was over the Pearl River Estuary and not actually on land it wasn’t a tornado, but a waterspout. 

The last report of a waterspout in the waters of Shenzhen Bay was in July 2010.


Huge Waterspout Off Lamma

Reports and pictures are circulating of a waterspout off Lamma yesterday at around 6:00 in the evening (12/08/2014). The waterspout estimated to have been a few hundred meters high was spotted by anglers fishing near Sok Kwu Wan. Thanks to the widespread use of camera phones, we actualy have a photo of it to (featured). 

The Hong Kong Observatory’s data showed that the area had strong convective activity, raising the chance of “waterspouts.” 

Waterspouts are most common in June and July in Hong Kong waters and have occurred several times in recent years, see earlier post on waterspouts in Hong Kong.


One pictures taken as far away as Ocean Park even captured it.

The waterspout off Lamma seen from Ocean Park. (Image from Facbook user Yuri Wong)

A Stranded Whale near Hong Kong, Supertyphoon Rammasun And Photoshopped Soldiers

A three-meter whale weighing four tons was stranded on a beach in the city of Yangjiang (about 230 km west of Hong Kong), in Guangdong province, on July 19, 2014. Local police officers and soldiers helped the whale back into the waters after it was washed ashore by waves during super typhoon Rammasun which hit Southern China. It was the strongest typhoon to hit the region in four decades, and brought gales and downpours.

The 3-m stranded whale at Yangjiang, Guandong Province. [Photo/IC]
Some media outlets (West Palm Beach TV , NBC Netwwork) initially reported it as a “killer whale” (Orcinus orca), but it is actually  a juvenile baleen whale – either a Fin, Bryde’s or Sei Whale (the pictures unfortunately don’t show enough details). China Daily also praises the police and soldiers for rescuing the animal, but the pictures show quite clearly that most of the manpower actually came from life guards.

Click here for the CCTV News video report

As the smallest baleen whales can be ruled out, the size of the individual means its a juvenile, perhaps even recently born. Although the efforts to save the whale are admirable, I suspect that separated from its mother and her milk this calf will highly likely die soon.

image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News
image: CCTV News

CCTV also included an image, not seen elsewhere on the web, showing soldiers rescuing the whale, although the image looks quite photoshopped and the weather seems much brighter in that one image….quite why anyone has to manipulate the image here I can’t understand, there is no political connotation here that I can recognize…

The most pointless photoshopping image ever. Suddenly the weather is brighter and the sldiers somehow stand out from the image more clearly. But whats the point?
The most pointless photoshopping image ever. Suddenly the weather is brighter and the soldiers somehow stand out from the image more clearly. But whats the point?

(Source: China Daily, 20/7/2014, and CNTV 20/7/2014)

Cloudy with a Chance of Fish – Water Spouts in Hong Kong

Another night of thunderstorms and rainstorm and the fact that the Hong Kong Observatory reported that an El Niño event was very probable this year got me thinking about extreme weather in a Hong Kong. We all know that Hong Kong gets hit by typhoons ( = hurricanes to Americans and British, Cyclones to Australians). You probably also know that typhoon systems form over warm oceans. But you might not know that Hong Kong also has tornadoes that form over the sea. These are so called water spouts and while they are very short-lived (15-20 minutes generally) compared to typhoons (days, even weeks) they are still quite fierce. Other than Hong Kong, I know of at least two other places where water spouts are common: the Florida Keys (saw it on a twister documentary) and the Philippines were I saw 3 in one day in April.

A waterspout occurring on the 21st August 1986 capsized two fishing boats causing four crew members to drown. On 18 August 1982, another waterspout occurred along the southern coast of Tsing Yi Island. Though no one was injured or killed by this waterspout, fourteen or more 4-tonne containers were blown upwards to the sky and the rooftop of a nearby empty house was ripped from its building.
The last water spouts spotted on Hong Kong occurred on two days in July 2010. A water spout was reported off Siu Sai Wan (east Kowloon) on the 22nd of July and a funnel cloud and at least three water spouts were sighted in Deep Bay on the 27th July 2010.

Waterspout appearing near Siu Sai Wan (picture by Mr Thomas Chong), 22nd July 2010


YouTube video of the water spouts in Deep Bay / Shenzhen Bay on the 27th of July 2010

A waterspout occurs over water, whereas a tornado is its equivalent over land. It usually involves a fast rotating column of air extending from the base of a cloud to the water surface. A rotating column of air that does not touch the water surface is called a funnel cloud and is made visible by cloud droplets.

In Hong Kong, there have been a total of 40 reports of waterspouts sighted within 460 kilometres of Hong Kong since 1959. Waterspouts are more commonly seen in June and July, so the season of the Dragon Kings is approaching…Dragon King?

In Chinese mythology there are deities called the Dragon Kings (龍王) which are regarded as the divine rulers of the oceans.  They appear often in classical Chinese literature and apart from having shapeshifting abilities and living in an underwater crystal palace, they also commands various marine creatures. They are the rulers of moving bodies of water, such as the sea and can show themselves as water spouts.

Waterspout appearing near Po Toi Island on the 19th August 2009 (picture by Mr Lawrence Leong)

Now you might wonder: what this weather phenomenon has to do with marine biology? On the 6th of May the BBC reported that a village in west Sri Lanka was surprised and delighted by an unusual rainfall of small fish. The fish fell during a storm and were believed to have been lifted out of a river during a strong wind. Apparently the “fish fall” had a total weight of 50kg (110lbs). And it’s not the first incident in Sri Lanka – in 2012, a case of “prawn rain” was recorded in the south.
“Scientists say that “fish rain” usually occurs when swirling whirlwinds over relatively shallow water develops into waterspouts and sucks in almost anything in the water including fish, eels and even frogs. The marine life can be carried long distances by buffeting clouds even when the waterspout stops spinning.”

As far as I am aware there has not been any recorded “fish rain” or “prawn rain” in Hong Kong. But now that you now know about water spouts in HK and fish rain, you will be able to explain it to friends if suddenly one June or July you get soaked in sea-bream…