Funnel Cloud Was Tornado, Expert Says

The funnel cloud that formed at the confluence of the Bassac and Me­kong rivers Tuesday was in­deed a tornado, and possibly Phnom Penh’s first, an adviser at the National Institute of Educa­tion said Thursday.

Photographic evidence shows that the cloud that formed shortly before 1 pm did touch the surface and therefore meets the definition of a tornado, said Tetsuya Mura­yama of the institute’s Science and Math­ematics Center, which trains high school teachers.

“One of the characteristics of the tornado is that it must form from the cloud, then touch the ground,” Murayama said. “If we ob­serve this, we consider that it was a tornado.”

With winds as fast as 400 kph, about 1,000 tornadoes carve paths of destruction through the US every year, causing an average of 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries, according to the US National Oce­anic and Atmo­spheric Admin­istration.

A vortex needn’t be so powerful to be considered a tornado, Mura­yama said.

Government meteorologist Seth Vannareth said Tuesday that the cloud was in fact an “intertropical convergence zone.”

However, said Murayama, this term describes an area of atmospheric activity, not a weather event.

Seth Vannareth conceded Thurs­­day that the phenomenon had in fact been a water-spout tornado and said that she had perhaps been misunderstood.

“This is not really a tornado like in the United States,” she said, adding that the ITCZ can contribute to vortex formation. “This is a small tornado,” she said.

Cambodian tornadoes, both on land and over water, have been recorded in 1998, 2000 and 2002 and on April 19 of this year, when a twister in Sihanoukville displaced a house and injured several children, she said.

The absence of a radar-equip­ped weather service and Cam­bodia’s year-round humidity make predicting when and where tornadoes will occur very difficult.

“Of course, this phenomenon is a small phenomenon in Cam­bodia,” she added.


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