Vortex breakdown occurs in tornadoes and waterspouts. This phenomenon may give information on the state and future behavior of those whirlwinds. Because of the rarity of recorded events, archival sources are consulted for qualitative descriptions from earlier times and compared with contemporary sources. Drawings and eyewitness reports from earlier times, rare photographs, movies, and observations from recent years indicate the occurrence of vortex breakdown in tornadoes and waterspouts near the ground, in the midsection of the funnel, and close to or inside the parent cloud. Since the contour of the whirlwind's funnel is delineated only by markers in the form of condensates, dust, or other debris, these markers may distort or obscure the evidence of vortex breakdown. This is a likely reason for the rare observation and identification of vortex breakdown which might be more common in whirlwinds than has been previously thought. According to the records examined, meteorologists deserve the honor for discovering and describing vortex breakdown long before the systematic investigation of recent years.

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