The National Weather Service has confirmed a landspout tornado north of Safford this afternoon. Based on social media accounts, the tornado touched down between 4:30-4:45 PM in central Graham County near the Gila River. Of note, Arizona averages 4 tornado touchdowns per year.

What makes a landspout tornado different from a regular tornado? According to the American Meteorological Society, a landspout tornado's rotation originates near the ground, not the base of the storm. Low level convergence creates the rotation, which is then lifted upward into the base of cloud by a thunderstorm updraft. Rotation within a landspout tornado is weak, but can produce some damage on occasion.

Landspout tornadoes are very hard to pinpoint on Doppler radar and typically are confirmed once on the ground.