Can a tornado/hurricane occur over Lake Superior?

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marilynn07 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is not very likely that a hurricane could ever form over Lake Superior because the water is deep and too cold to support such a large storm.  However, a waterspout (tornado over water) could form over any body of water if the conditions are favorable for such a storm to occur.  Typically, a waterspout forms over southern bodies of water and is much weaker than a tornado that forms over land.

Tornadoes form when a cold front overtakes a slow moving warm/moist body of air. The warm air is naturally seeking to be higher than the cold air. This instability in the atmosphere creates a mesocyclone (a violent rotating supercell) that has the ability to spawn a tornadic rotation, severe thunderstorm, downbursts,  hail storm, and cloud to ground lightning strikes.

The Pennsylvania-Ohio tornado outbreak, May 31, 1985, did include some waterspouts that traveled across Lakes Erie and Ontario.  So, it is possible, but  not likely that a tornado would form over Lake Superior.

"If you're driving in a midnight rain in October near Lake Michigan, remember that a tornado is not outside the realm of possibility," says Robert Trapp of Purdue University (

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