Weather Talk: A tornado is not just any funnel cloud
This is North Dakota Severe Summer Weather Awareness week and today's focus is on tornadoes. A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Sometimes, the violent wind is in contact with the ground, but not the cloud. A cloud is merely condensation. It is the rotating wind in contact with the ground that makes it a tornado.
On the other hand, if the wind is not violent, it is not a tornado. Sometimes the dynamics of weaker showers produce funnel-shaped, rotating clouds that are non-violent and these are not as dangerous, or not dangerous at all, and so are not tornadoes.
It can be difficult sometimes to tell the difference without an awareness of the meteorological conditions, so any funnel-shaped, rotating cloud should be respected as well as reported.