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Dust Devils in Northern Arizona
|An example of a dust devil
(Copyright: John Roenfeldt-Inflow Images)
What is a Dust Devil?
A common wind phenomenon that occurs throughout much of the world, including Arizona, are dust devils. An example of a dust devil can be seen to the left. These dust-filled vortices, created by strong surface heating, are generally smaller and less intense than a tornado. Typical diameters of dust devils range from 10 to 300 feet, with an average height of approximately 500 to 1000 feet. In most locations, dust devils typically last only a few minutes before dissipating. Although, in deserts typical of northern Arizona, dust devils can reach heights of several thousand feet and last on the order of an hour or more. Wind speeds in larger dust devils can reach 60 mph or greater. Even though they are generally smaller than tornadoes, dust devils can still be destructive as they lift dust and other debris into the air. Small structures can be damaged, and even destroyed, if in the path of a strong dust devil.
How do Dust Devils Form?
Dust devils form in areas of strong surface heating, usually at the interface between different surface types, such as asphalt and dirt, or even irrigated fields and dirt roads. Typically, they occur under clear skies and light winds, when the ground can warm the air to temperatures well above the temperatures just above the ground. This is a very unstable condition, since the heated air is less dense and lighter than the cooler air above it. If the temperature of the ground becomes much warmer than the air above it, vertical mixing will take place to release this unstable configuration. Once the ground heats up enough, a localized pocket of air will quickly rise through the cooler air above it. The sudden uprush of hot air causes air to speed horizontally inward to the bottom of the newly-forming vortex. This rapidly rising pocket of air may begin to rotate, and if it continues to be stretched in the vertical direction, will increase in rotation speed. This increase in rotation speed from vertical stretching is similar to the increased spinning of an ice skater as they bring their arms in toward their bodies. As more hot air rushes in toward the developing vortex to replace the air that is rising, this spinning effect is intensified. As the air rises, it cools and eventually will descend back through the center of the vortex. Under optimal conditions, a balance between the hot air rising along the outer wall of the vortex and the cooler air sinking in the vortex occurs. The dust devil then begins to move across the ground, picking up more and more dust, which highlights the vortex making it visible to the eye. The dust devil, once formed, is a funnel-like chimney through which hot air moves both upward and circularly. If a steady supply of warm unstable air is available for the dust devil, it will continue to move across the ground. However, once the warm unstable air is depleted or the balance is broken in some other way, the dust devil will break down and dissipate.
Do Dust Devils Form in Northern Arizona?
Dust devils can form anywhere in Arizona, due to a combination of our southern latitude and increased solar heating, our dry sandy soil types, and large areas of lightly vegetated terrain. Because of the necessity of warm clear days and light winds, dust devils occur most frequently over northern Arizona in the months of May and June, but can occur at anytime during the year under the right conditions. Dust devils are most prevalent in the desert regions, but can occur even in the forests of the Mogollon Rim. A good place to look for dust devils is along the boundary between irrigated fields or forest meadows and dry, sunbaked ground or dirt roadways, usually between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is most intense.
On September 14, 2000, a large well-defined dust devil hit the Coconino County Fairgrounds causing property damage and personal injuries. Tents were blown down and a ticket booth was knocked over. A large wooden beam in one of the pavilions was split due to the strong winds. Due to this amount of damage, it is estimated that wind speeds may have reached up to 75 mph. Dust devils are not only common to our planet, but have also been found on Mars as well.
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Frequently Asked Questions About which condition most favors the development of dust devils?
If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic which condition most favors the development of dust devils?, then this section may help you solve it.
What is the origin of dust devils?
Under ideal circumstances, a balance between the hot air rising along the outer wall of the vortex and the cooler air sinking in the vortex occurs, which is how dust devils form: the air rises, it cools, and eventually will descend back through the center of the vortex.
Which of the following factors encourages the growth of dust devils?
Dust devil is another name for a small, rotating whirlwind seen at the surface. Which of the following conditions favors development of dust devils?
What distinguishes a dust devil from a tornado?
When convective thunderstorm activity occurs, strong updrafts can start to rotate (that’s called a mesocycle), and at the base of the cloud a funnel of water vapor and droplets forms. Dust devils form at the surface from swirling winds, while tornadoes are the result of thunderstorm activity.
Dust devils can they turn into tornadoes?
Dust devils are short-lived whirlwinds that form as an upward motion from the ground to the sky; they can turn into tornadoes when a storm’s updraft crosses over the already-existing ground circulation.
How does a dust devil form? What is it?
If conditions are just right, the updraft may start to rotate as a pocket of hot air near the surface rises quickly through cooler air above it to form a dust devil.
When and where do dust devils typically appear?
When the sky is clear and the wind is light, the ground temperature can rise significantly, creating an unstable environment that causes the surface air to rise, which is when dust devils are most likely to form.
Which of the following circumstances would you anticipate to be ideal for a thunderstorm to form?
Thunderstorm development requires three basic components: moisture, an unstable atmosphere, and a way to get the atmosphere moving.
What three environmental factors contributed to the Dust Bowl?
The great dust bowl was primarily brought on by three years of extremely hot weather, droughts, and intensive farming.
What is the name of a dust devil?
Small, brief whirlwinds, also known as dust devils or sand devils, are most common in the early afternoon when a land surface is rapidly heating up. Dust devils are occasionally made visible by the lofting of dust, leaves, or other loose matter from the surface.
What is the name of a dust devil over water?
A small, weak whirlwind over water (or occasionally wet land) that has attracted fog into the vortex, making it visible, is known as a steam devil.
Do dust devils only form in the presence of clouds?
You typically see dust devils on dry, sunny summer days when there is anywhere from a little to no breeze, unlike tornadoes which are usually associated with storms.
Do cows get thrown by tornadoes?
Tornadoes are capable of picking up heavy objects like semi trucks and heavy animals like cows.
What brings about a dust cloud?
They are typically brought on by thunderstorms, or by strong pressure gradients associated with cyclones, which increase wind speed over a large area and carry large amounts of sand and dust hundreds to thousands of kilometers away from the source.
Are convective clouds related to dust devils?
A dust devil, which typically has weaker winds than a tornado, can show a circulation on the ground, but it is not a tornado because it is not connected to a convective storm.
What has a tornado ever picked up that was particularly heavy?
A tornado would have no trouble tossing a 2000 to 3000 pound van into the air. What is the heaviest object a tornado has ever picked up? The Pampa, Texas tornado moved machinery that weighed more than 30,000 pounds; whether it was slid or picked up, we don’t know.
How big of a tornado can lift a vehicle?
Avoid hiding under an overpass; an EF-1 tornado can push a moving car off the road, and an EF-2 tornado can pick a car up off the ground.
Has a plane ever been picked up by a tornado?
As a tornado passed through Lambert-St. Louis, a plane that was about to take off for Chicago was hit by flying debris and lifted off the ground. By BJ Lutz? Published? Updated on at 4:53 pm.
Has anyone ever been carried away by a tornado?
In 2006, Missouri resident Matt Suter, then 19 years old, was thrown 1,307 feet and managed to survive after being caught in a tornado.
Why do not tornadoes affect major cities?
Tornado strikes in major metropolitan areas are only less frequent because the vast amount of rural landscape in the U.S. far exceeds the country’s limited urban footprint. A tornado is not magically diverted by a building or even a mountain.