Singapore's gargoyle dwarfs buildings and sways boats in the ocean as it rolls toward the coast

What are they and why do they form?

Gargoyles are swirling columns of air and water mist.

They form when cumulus clouds grow quickly. These clouds are detached, fluffy and cauliflower-shaped.

Cumulus clouds are created by convection. Here hot air rises and cools down to form water vapor, which then condenses into clouds.

They fall into two categories: "fair weather" and "tornadian"

(1) Tornadic gargoyles

These are tornadoes that form over water or move from land to water and develop downwards during thunderstorms.

They have the same characteristics as a land tornado and can be accompanied by strong winds and seas, large hail and lightning.

(2) Good weather gargoyles

These usually form along the dark, flat base of a line of developing cumulus clouds and develop from the surface of the water.

They are generally not associated with thunderstorms and form in light winds, so they usually don't move very much.

The five levels of education

1. Dark spot: A light disk appears on the water surface, which is surrounded by a larger, darker area

2. Spiral pattern: A combination of light and dark spots on the water spiraling out of the dark spot

3. Spray ring: A ring of sea spray appears around the dark spot

4. Ripe vortex: The gargoyle reaches its maximum intensity and forms a cavity shape that appears hollow. It can climb several hundred feet.

5. Decay: The funnel and the spray vortex begin to dissolve when the inflow of warm air into the vortex becomes weaker

Sources: Met Office / National Ocean Service / National Weather Service

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