An unusual Northwest Territories weather forecast on Tuesday suggests funnel clouds could develop in the region between Norman Wells and Wrigley.
The forecast is contained in Environment and Climate Change Canada’s thunderstorm outlook for western Canada, published online by the federal agency daily during the year’s warmer months.
“Note the risk of thunderstorms and the risk of funnel clouds between Norman Wells and Wrigley and south of Great Bear Lake,” the agency tweeted.
A map shared in the same tweet suggests that Tulita, south of Norman Wells, is on the upper edge of the area most likely to experience a funnel cloud.
In a later tweet, the agency added: “The most likely time to see funnel cloud development today is late afternoon to early evening. These funnel clouds are often brief and weak and rarely touch down. If conditions become more favourable for their development, advisories will be issued.”
Funnel clouds are not tornadoes, although the difference generally boils down to whether or not they touch the ground. A whirling condensation funnel that does not touch land is a funnel cloud. If it drops down to land, that’s a tornado.
When Yellowknife was issued with an extremely rare funnel cloud advisory in July last year, Environment and Climate Change Canada told residents: “These types of funnel clouds are generated by weak rotation under rapidly growing clouds or weak thunderstorms. This weak rotation is normally not a danger near the ground. However, there is a chance that this rotation could intensify and become a weak landspout tornado.
“Treat any funnel cloud sighting seriously. Should a funnel cloud develop nearby, prepare to take shelter. These funnel clouds usually appear with little or no warning.”
Tornadoes are almost unheard-of in the Northwest Territories but there have been occasional reports of them touching down.
Most recently, Fort Smith experienced what researchers concluded was likely a weak tornado in early June 2019.
Downbursts, which also aren’t tornadoes but can look a lot like a tornado passed through, occasionally occur in the NWT. Researchers uncovered evidence of a downburst in the Dehcho two years ago.