Landspouts, or non-supercell tornadoes in weak wind shear environments, are rather common just east of the Rockies in late spring and summer. Still, this was the last thing I expected to see while driving away from New Mexico's Capulin volcano on a family vacation, after thousands of miles of tornado-free storm intercepts during the previous two springs. Close examination of the rain core and adjacent rain-free base of some mushy-looking storms to our distant SW revealed a sharply defined dust tube extending from ground to cloud base -- with the core (at left) closing quickly upon the tornado. It was well out over open rangeland about 8 miles SW of the town of Capulin, harming nothing but perhaps some sagebrush or grasshoppers. I don't know how long the tornado had been alive, but obviously it would soon be choked by cold outflow. We pulled over fast, allowing my kids time to see their first tornado while I dug out the camera and a 210 mm zoom lens. The photo here was the first and best I could shoot, after the dust tube started to become fuzzy. Within less than a minute more the vortex was obliterated by the core. But this was still a surprising and spectacular way to cap off a vacation in the Rockies.
1 N Capulin NM (13 Aug 1) looking SW.