Funnel clouds are being spotted around Central Alberta — but not the kind that could blow the roof off your house.
Weak cold-core funnels were photographed on Friday afternoon extending down from storm clouds between Red Deer and Sylvan Lake.
They did not come close to touching the ground and were unlikely to, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Greg Pearce.
Even if they did, Pearce said the cold-core funnels might blow lawn furniture around a bit or bring some smaller trees down — but not wreak the kind of devastation that the Pine Lake or Edmonton tornadoes caused.
Cold-core funnels are not traditional severe tornadoes, said Pearce.
Traditional tornadoes are caused when temperatures hit about 30C during the day and the warm, moist air collides with an upper cold air mass.
The weak funnels being spotted in the Red Deer area on Friday are also caused by an upper low. Pearce said there’s a pool of very cold air aloft that’s kept recent temperatures well below the 21C average for this time of year. At the same time, the sun has been high and when it breaks through the clouds, “you can get some heat on the ground.”
When the warmish air rises and hits the cool air mass above, it causes the “swirly” clouds people are seeing, said Pearce. “But they are not likely to cause the kind of winds that would cause widespread destruction.”
While some traditional tornadoes are a kilometre wide and hard to avoid, he believes this shouldn’t be a problem with cold-core funnels, which are typically only a few metres wide.
“They are very easy to avoid. If you see one and you’re in your car, just steer the other way and you should be OK.”
Environment Canada put out an alert about cold-core funnels because it’s still possible to have things blown at you, said Pearce. “You could still get injured.”
He cautioned Central Albertans to keep an eye out for the funnel clouds in case they touch down.
Meanwhile, Pearce predicted that temperatures would become more seasonal by Tuesday, which is supposed to have a high of 23C.