Striking picture shows 'mini-tornado' in skies above rural Aberdeenshire

It's perhaps more reminiscent of a scene from The Wizard of Oz...

But this "mini tornado" was photographed today above the fields of rural Aberdeenshire - not Kansas.

It was spotted early on Monday afternoon near Oldmeldrum and is thought to be a funnel cloud - a cloud of condensed water droplets forming a tornado-like shape during thunderstorms or heavy rain which does not touch the ground.

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BBC meteorologists have previously told The Scotsman that such phenomena can only be classed as tornadoes if they come into contact with the ground and a cumulonimbus cloud.

The funnel cloud in the skies above rural Aberdeenshire. Pic: Mark Stephen.The funnel cloud in the skies above rural Aberdeenshire. Pic: Mark Stephen.
The funnel cloud in the skies above rural Aberdeenshire. Pic: Mark Stephen.

BBC Radio Scotland presenter Mark Stephen, who captured the image from his back garden, said the funnel cloud seemed “quite benign” and he believes it was about two or three miles away at the time.

He told The Scotsman: "Although it's got a tornado shape there's no real force in it. During haymaking time it can pick up dust pebbles and hay but it just drops it behind."

Mark was working at his dining table when he just happened to look out the window and witness the incredible sight before running to grab his phone. He continued: "When I've seen them before they change shape quickly and you have to grab it before it loses its shape.

"I ran into my back garden and caught it up against the sun shining from the east and the clouds like gunmetal grey to the west."

Sharing the image on twitter just after 1pm on Monday, he wrote: "Well, we’re not in Kansas now Toto... rural Aberdeenshire an hour ago.

"Very nearly broke my neck running outside to photograph it. Blow ye hurricanoes and tempestoes!"

Mr Stephen, who presents BBC Radio Scotland programme Out of Doors on a Saturday morning, said he'd been to Kansas about 25 years ago to do a show and saw a real tornado which was “definitely something he’d want to run away from.”

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He said this latest experience at home will certainly be getting a mention in his next show.

Other sightings of a funnel cloud today were recorded in the skies above Dyce and Kintore, further south of Oldmeldrum.