SOUTH JORDAN, Utah (ABC4) – A large dust devil was captured Wednesday afternoon in South Jordan at the American Academy of Innovation.
Video of the natural phenomenon is included below:
Luckily, the vortex of air is not very damaging. It only picks up dust and very light debris as it spins around during its short lifespan, which is how it gets its name.
While everyone may be thinking it, a dust devil is not a tornado. They may look similar at the surface, but their mechanics are very much different in how they are made.
A tornado is a rotating column of air that starts from a supercell thunderstorm. These require a lot of energy in the form of heat and moisture, and spin — also known as wind shear — in the atmosphere, and even then, you need a lifting mechanism with perfect conditions.
A dust devil is also driven by wind shear and heat, but does not require moisture or an external lifting mechanism. When the ground below begins to heat, it it rises and begins to lift as the surrounding air above the surface is cooler. Then winds at the surface must be going in a direction parallel to the winds higher up, creating what is known as an Ekman Transport. This is also the driving mechanism behind whirlpools in the ocean, but that is for another day.
So while both a tornado and dust devil may have similar ingredients, they are not the same end product. But do not be fooled; being caught in a dust devil is still unpleasant, especially one as large as the one in the video.