Photo: four waterspouts off the coast of Greece

This amazing rare photograph taken by a boat passenger shows four waterspouts on the Ionian Sea in Greece.

Seeing even one of the rare phenomenon is thought to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but Italian Roberto Giudici managed to see four in one go.

He took this incredible pic 20 years ago when he was sailing off the Greek Island of Orthoni in the Ionian Sea. A huge storm blew up over night and he was greeted with this stunning scene the following morning.

Waterspouts develop in a similar way to tornadoes but are usually far weaker.

Each waterspout represents a focused point over the warmer seawater where condensation builds up between the water and the cooler moist air in the cloud.

And even though it looks like the spouts are pulling the water up into the sky they are actually just dancing above the sea forming clouds that get shaped into twisting coils due to the vertical convection forces between them.

The picture - which was taken in 1999 - has now come to light after it appeared on a NASA website.

Roberto, who now lives in Rennes, France, told Caters News: "We were about a mile away from the nearest one, I asked the captain if they were dangerous as we were heading towards them.

"He looked at me and made a gesture, but he seemed to be hopeful.

"I observed this sight over the Adriatic Sea on a boat trip to Brindisi, Italy. As we departed, the weather was very summer-like with some humidity, hot and sunny.

"Cumuliform clouds developed during our excursion, but the weather didn't appear threatening. In fact, the atmospheric pressure was stable at 1024 millibars.

"Suddenly, we saw a line of funnel clouds straight in front of our boat! The photo shows the most recently formed waterspout in the foreground; the oldest spout, in the background, would disappear in a few seconds.

"I could count at least 10 on the starboard and some on the port side and they lasted for about four minutes each.

"The photo shows actually the first waterspout as being the youngest and the latter very thin and the oldest, ready to disappear.

"Our boat actually passed through the scary funnels. The spouts were spaced about a third of a nautical mile from each other.

"This is obviously an old picture and is not even digital but I have been asked recently if it is a fake, which it is not. It has now been used on the website Earth Science, part of NASA's Earth Science Division."

Jim Foster, from NASA, said he did indeed believe the photograph was real and this was supported by the way in which waterspouts form.

He said: "Waterspouts having multiple funnels, while not often photographed, occur more often than tornadoes that have multiple funnels.

"It seems that the convective cloud systems that lead to waterspout formation, which have relatively weak circulation fields compared to tornadoes, can support more but much smaller funnels."

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