Tornado or funnel cloud photographed as airplane takes off in England

Weather pattern, with cool air sweeping into the UK at high altitudes, spurred turbulent weather Thursday. (

A strong cold front sweeping through England Thursday ignited strong showers and storms.  One of the storms passing through the Midlands spawned a menacing funnel cloud or possible tornado near East Midlands airport, which was photographed just as a Ryanair jet was taking off.

Here’s a look at the viral photo:

It’s not clear if the vortex photographed is an actual tornado, because there is no view of the ground.  In order for a funnel cloud to be classified as a tornado, it must make ground contact.

Archived radar imagery suggests the storm was passing through around 10:30 UTC or 11:30 a.m. local time, in the cluster of storms passing in between Nottingham and Birmingham.

Archived radar image from 11:30 a.m. local time Thursday, around the time the funnel cloud was likely photographed (
Archived radar image from 11:30 a.m. local time Thursday, around the time the funnel cloud was likely photographed (

Suffice to say, it was not a prudent decision for a plane to take off under such conditions.

“While meteorologists have conquered the downburst, making air travel much safer, tornadoes are a different matter,” writes Mike Smith, senior vice president at AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions. “There are far too many close encounters between aircraft and tornadoes.”

Related: Despite warning, St. Louis tornado caught airport, passengers off guard | In St. Louis, pilot was unaware of approaching tornado

The funnel cloud formed on a very active weather day in England Thursday, with “biblical rains” reported in South London.  The Daily Mail filed the following report yesterday:

Parts of Britain are submerged in floodwater this afternoon after a third of a month’s rain fell within just two hours.

Emergency services in south London have described the downpours as ‘biblical’ as drains blocked up causing widespread flash-flooding in Lewisham.

Tornadoes and funnel clouds, while not as common as in the United States, can and do occur in the United Kingdom.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
Show Comments
Most Read Local

Heat Tracker

90-degree days year-to-date
Yearly Average
Record Most
67 (1980,2010)
Record Fewest
7 (1886,1905)
Last Year

At a Glance


-- /84°


72° /85°
Drop 80%


73° /90°


76° /92°
Drop 40%


75° /91°
Drop 30%


76° /92°
Drop 30%
National Airport

Right Now

Next Story
Ian Livingston · August 15, 2014