HomeOutdoorsWeatherRare ‘Snow Tornado’ Caught on Video In Scotland

Rare ‘Snow Tornado’ Caught on Video In Scotland

by Brett Stayton
Snowstorm, Sunshine, And Clouds
Photo by Alexandros Maragos/Getty Images

I’m way more familiar with Sharknados than I am with Snownados. But thanks to a rare video captured in Scotland and this article from the Washington Post, I now know more about Snownados than I did when my day started. Michael Peterson, a Scottish farmer, was out with his flock tending to his sheep. That’s when he got the snow tornado on film. His farm is located on the western tip of the Shetland Islands. That is way out in the North Sea between the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Norway.

Moderate snow was falling as an Arctic blast of wind patterns caused school closures and prompted school and business closures. A warning for snow and ice remains in effect for the region until Friday. A report from the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office details that “some roads and railways likely to be affected with longer journey times by road, bus and train services. Some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces are possible, and probably some icy patches on some untreated roads, pavements, and cycle paths.”

BBC Scotland News shared the video on Twitter:

What Is A Snow Vortex Anyways?

The swirling winds and nasty weather during a snowstorm can often look like a vortex or tornado. In this case, winds of up to about 90 mph were reported. The Washington Post took a deeper dive to determine whether or not it was actually a tornado. Their conclusion is that “we can assert it probably was a tornado rather than a run-of-the-mill snow whirl.”

That conclusion was based on two primary points, as outlined below:

The tornado appears to be spinning counterclockwise, the sun is emerging behind the tornado, and snowflakes in the foreground are moving left to right. That indicates the parent storm cloud was likely rotating counterclockwise and that, from the vantage point of the camera, we’re likely looking west-northwest. Tornadoes usually rotate counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and occur on the backside of thunderstorms (or, on occasion, snow squalls).

There is a visible funnel above the whirling confetti of snow at the base of the vortex. That indicates the twister was likely a bona fide tornado and may have exhibited a connection to the cloud base above.

Not The First Snow Tornado Caught On Camera

In order for a snow tornado to form, several climactic factors have to come together simultaneously. According to the Washington Post, “a strong updraft has to be present to vertically stretch a vortex and form a tornado. Robust updrafts are tough to come by in the wintertime since rarely is sufficient relative warmth and moisture available for a cloud to grow vertically.”

There have been several instances of something like this happening before. Incredible footage of a tornadic waterspout in the middle of a snowstorm was recorded in Greece in January 2022. It took place as one of the worst winter storms in the history of the Mediterranean Coast was in full force. Take a look at the video below:

Ben Domensino / Twitter