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April 18, 2017 10:24 PM

How Dust Devils Form

You may have seen on KELOLAND News that a grass fire north of Sioux Falls, formed a dust devil.  How did it happen?

Crews worked at putting out a grass fire north of Sioux Falls at mile marker 90.  During the fire, a dust devil formed.  


The fire helped aid in creating the dust devil.  The heat from the fire helped heat the ground near it faster than ground farther away from the fire.  It created its own wind pattern as the warm air would circulate and rise.  At the same time it moves the cooler air away.  Any gust of wind will allow this circulation to be tilted to its side.  You can see the wind pattern due to the dust and ash.

They can also develop as the rising air rotates from winds going in different directions at different layers of the atmosphere.

Most dust devils are weak and only last a few minutes.  But some have been know to do damage as the likes of an EF-0.

Dust devils are common.  But we usually don't see them until the warmer days of late spring and into the summer.  The weather conditions need to be just right too, typically hot days with light winds.

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