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Posted On: 26 October 2019 12:56 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:05 pm

Is it a gustnado or a tornado that hit Al Ghuwayriyah?

Leena Chung
Leena Chung
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You may have seen video clips on social media, which looks like a sand tornado hitting Al Ghuwayriyah yesterday. So the questions is, what is this? Is it a tornado or a gustnado? We have no report from Qatar Meteorology Department yet, but read this article and tell us what you think it could be!


A gustnado is a short-lived, ground-based swirling wind that can form on the leading edge of a severe thunderstorm. The name comes from the "gust front of a tornado" and on average, it lasts a few seconds to a few minutes.

According to, very strong thunderstorms produce a powerful downward push of air called downdraft. The downdraft winds then spread outward upon hitting the ground, causing a strong rush of wind at the surface. If there is enough instability, rotation may develop and a gustnado might form.

The gustnado spins upward from the ground, extending between 30 to 300 feet above the surface. However, the rotating column of air in a gustnado is not connected to the base of a cloud, making it different from a tornado.

A gustnado may be accompanied by rain, but mostly just tosses dust and small debris into the air. A gustnado can sometimes reach wind speeds between 60 to 80 mph, resulting in significant damage.


Image credit: Classic Tornado Highlights 2019 McCook Nebraska May 17

A Tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or the base of a cumulus cloud. It is often referred to as a twister and has various types - multiple vortex tornado, landspout, and waterspout.

The denser cold air gets pushed over the warm air and produces thunderstorms. The warm air rises through the colder air, causing an updraft. The updraft will begin to rotate if winds vary sharply in speed or direction.

As the rotating updraft, called a mesocycle, draws in more warm air from the moving thunderstorm, its rotation speed increases. Cool air fed by the jet stream, a strong band of wind in the atmosphere, provides even more energy.

Water droplets from the mesocyclone's moist air forms a funnel cloud. The funnel continues to grow and eventually it descends from the cloud. When it touches the ground, it becomes a tornado.

    Reports on gustnados and tornadoes in Qatar

    Waterspout on November 2013

    On November 14th, 2013 - a fair weather waterspout was spotted in the northern industrial zone of Las Laffan, Doha News reported. It passed by pretty quick.

    Gustnado on November 2016

    On November 23rd, 2016 - gustnadoes were seen in Doha, Al Khor and Mesaieed - no injuries were reported. A storm hit afterward until 28 November with lots of rain, thunder and lightning causing flooded streets and leaking ceilings of some buildings.

    Gustnado or Tornado on November 2019

    On 25 October 2019 - a rotating form of column was seen at Al Ghuwayriyah, which is unidentified yet. What do you think it could be?

    Qatar Meteorology Department reported that thundery rain with strong wind is expected in some areas of Qatar today. It will be safer to take umbrellas tomorrow -better safe than sorry!

    Source: Wikipedia, National Geographic