Dr. Scott M. Steiger ’99,
assistant professor of meteorology, always knew Oswego
was a great place to study meteorology. Lake effect
snow and other weather phenomena off Lake Ontario were
what drew him to the college as an undergraduate. But
the morning of Sept. 21 brought home the message in
The college’s location on the shore of a Great
Lake and just the right weather conditions combined
to give Steiger the opportunity to take “unprecedented”
photos of tornadoes on the water, commonly called waterspouts.
“I was driving to work at about 7:40 a.m., and
saw the clouds and knew the conditions were conducive
for waterspouts,” Steiger recalls. He rushed up
to the roof of Piez Hall and started firing away, using
a camera equipped with a powerful zoom lens.
Based on radar imagery and his own observations, Steiger
estimates that the waterspouts were one to two miles
Waterspouts, formed when cold air blows over warmer
lake water (the same conditions that produce lake effect
snow), are not rare, Steiger says. They are usually
seen to some degree every fall. But they often don’t
last long enough for people to observe them, or they
may occur at night and go unseen.
What was truly rare about this occurrence was that there
were four spouts, and that Steiger was able to get such
photos of them.
“The detail we have in the pictures is really
unprecedented,” he explains. Steiger sent the
pictures to the nation’s foremost tornado expert,
and he agreed they were special.
“This is the first time we have gotten high quality
images of the structure of waterspouts,” Steiger
explains. “One photo shows waves going up the
side of the waterspout — We’ve never seen
The photos caused a stir in the meteorology department.
“We were all excited,” says Steiger. “It
was like Christmas morning.”
His dramatic pictures were featured on the local TV
news and in newspapers.
He also used them to teach his undergraduate meteorology
“Students were scared when they saw these pictures,”
he says. “After all, they are tornadoes.”
Steiger was able to capture the shots using a camera
purchased by the dean of arts and sciences for photographing
weather conditions on the lake to use in meteorology
Steiger also uses the equipment to photograph lightning
For more photos see:
To October 2006 E-Newsletter