Ask Storm Team 11: What are dust devils and how do they form?

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Today’s question is this: what are dust devils and how do they form?

A dust devil is simply a rotating column of air that becomes visible as the funnel lifts dirt and debris into the air. These are often very weak in nature, causing little to no damage in most cases. The type of ground in particular plays a crucial role in development, which is why you tend to see dust devils develop more frequently in hot and dry environments.

The process begins with the heating of the ground and the air nearby. A mini column of hot air rises, creating a mini low pressure which in turn causes the column of air to start spinning. This brief spin up creates wind speeds in excess of 40 mph to 50 mph, typically lasting only minutes before dissipating.

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