Mistaking scud for funnels

Mar 23, 2013
Denver, CO
Last week during my chase I noticed quite a few funnel reports in areas that weren’t producing confirmed funnels or tornadoes.
Some were in areas that were just high precip areas with no other tornadic characteristics and storms weren’t even severe warned or tornado warned for that matter.

Does it seem like many “chasers” out there who have a registered spotter network account are reporting seeing funnels when they’re actually just seeing scud?

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Jun 2, 2014
Menominee, MI
I wouldn’t just dismiss the reports out of hand. In remote areas far from the nearest Doppler, the NWS may not have enough information to even issue a severe warning on a storm capable of producing a tornado. That’s where chasers, spotters LEO....can make a big difference by being the eyes on the ground to either confirm or alert to what is going on where the radar can’t see.
A radar signal looking weak could very well be just the distance and/or the terrain preventing the radar from picking up the whole picture.
  • Like
Reactions: Hannah.Taylor

Randy Jennings

May 18, 2013
There has always been - and always will be - bad reports as well as good reports that others dismiss as bad. The real key to making a good report is seeing rotation - The problem is rotation gets hard to see the futher away you are or even sometimes what direction you are from the storm. I've been on all sides of that debate- things I thought where scud but later saw closer video that shows it was a tor, cases where even after seeing other video I still thought it was scud, and cases where folks said it was scud and I had closer video that showed rotation. Not every tor is a clean beautiful tight stovepie, some are messy. I do wish chasers would report what they see instead if what they think they see (i.e. if they can't see rotation due to distance or night say "possible tornado".)
  • Like
Reactions: Hannah.Taylor
Mar 30, 2008
Norman, OK
Yes, the reports are sometimes bad. SN Advisors have been flagging reports as necessary. I know at least of a couple in the past week I have personally red flagged due to them insinuating what was happening instead of just reporting what they are observing. Let the NWS Meteorologist determine what is happening.

John Farley

Apr 1, 2004
Pagosa Springs, CO
I agree that mistakes get made both ways. My personal policy is not to report anything to the NWS unless I am sure. As I believe Chris Novy once said, "if it doesn't spin, don't call it in." In my chasing this month, there have been a few times I saw things that looked like they could have been funnels, but were more likely scud. One indicator is how long they persist, though that is not sure-fire, either. A few of the more distant ones I will never be sure about, but it is easier to be fooled the farther away it is. OTOH, twice in my chasing this month I have seen wall clouds with considerable nearby scud blocking the view that I did NOT think were associated with tornadoes, but it was proven that they were tornadoes - one by video of ground circulation and the other by damage. Only later did I find out that either was a tornado, though I did think I saw a funnel back in there on one of them, and later found one in my video in the other. I agree with only report what you actually see, or don't make a report at all if you don't know what is going on, especially if the storm is already warned.
  • Like
Reactions: Hannah.Taylor

James K

Mar 26, 2019
My feeling is that I would not call it in (or make a SN report) unless I could absolutely tell it was a funnelcloud or tornado (and that said, I think I'd be hesitant to do a funnel which was just that a funnel, but not yet on the ground). I certainly don't want to waste the NWS guy's time, especially when they're busy dealing with severe weather.
  • Like
Reactions: Hannah.Taylor
Jan 16, 2009
Kansas City
It has happened many times and will continue to. I myself have reported a tornado in the past that was a good fake and was called out for it. I learned from that and only report tornadoes if I am 100% certain it is one now.

With that said not all reports are wrong as I have seen landspouts especially where you would not think there was anything just looking at radar. Also depending on distance from the radar site which happens more as you get out in certain areas.
  • Like
Reactions: Hannah.Taylor

J Holder

Mar 30, 2005
Osage city, KS
the difference between scud and funnels is easy: Rotation rotation rotation.

I have advised NWS that there's scud in certain areas just as a head's up that they're probably going to field calls from the public about it.

Jeff Duda

EF6+, PhD
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
Broomfield, CO
We had another incident with this last Friday, the 15th in N AR. Lots of tornadoes being reported that never occurred, with videos showing scud nearly to the ground in many cases being mistaken for a tornado.

Pretty ridiculous that this is still an issue in 2022.