A waterspout, to put it very simply, is a tornado over a body of water. They actually are common for Lake Ontario and they can happen across most the Great Lakes.
The month of August begins the peak time of year that you see them. That’s because it’s when the lakes are their warmest.
A waterspout typically occurs when cold air aloft moves across the warm body of water. Just like in the winter, with lake effect snow, the large temperature difference plays a key role.
Waterspouts develop at the surface of the water and climb skyward. Usually, they last about two to 20 minutes and move between 12 to 17 mph.
They’re usually weaker than tornadoes but they should still be taken seriously, especially if you’re a boater.