A waterspout was seen off the coast of Taranaki earlier today, with curious locals snapping several photos.

Taranaki man Chris Welson said he was at a friend's home in Moturoa overlooking Paratutu Rock when he spotted the waterspout out of the kitchen window.

Chris Welson spotted the waterspout earlier this morning. Photo / Chris Welson
Chris Welson spotted the waterspout earlier this morning. Photo / Chris Welson

MetService meteorologist April Clark said waterspouts were tricky to track, and were often small-scale weather features associated with isolated thunderstorms.

She said high helicity this morning helped form the waterspout near New Plymouth as a weather system passed along the west of New Zealand.

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"Often these happen because a trough was moving, there's a low to the west of the country at the moment, and there was a trough moving.

"We're not expecting any more - that trough has moved by and the conditions aren't right any more."

She explained waterspouts formed with a change in wind height rather than wind speed.

"So ahead of that trough were nor'easterlies at the surface and more nor'westerlies further aloft ... basically the wind changes in direction as we go up in height.

"When you get that twist or change in direction as you go higher in the atmosphere it can cause these [waterspouts]."

She said waterspouts were typically short-lived, and could last from 2-3 minutes up to 15 minutes if powered by a enough energy.

"It would be dangerous to vessels but you'd be quite unlikely, because they're such small features, to be caught up in one.

"But, I can't imagine it would be a good thing to be in."