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What is a Dust Devil

Dust Devils Are Common in Phoenix

If you are driving around town, and you see a plume of swirling dust rising up from the desert floor, you have just witnessed a dust devil. According to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a dust devil is "an almost self-sustaining whirlwind that maintains a funnel-like chimney through which hot air moves both upward and circularly."

Dust devils are not tornadoes and are much smaller and less dangerous. Still, they can move pretty fast, and you don't want to be in their path or breathing the dust that is kicked up by the dust devil. They will usually last only several seconds, but they can last longer. It is common to see several dust devils, one after the other, and you are most likely to see them when it is especially hot, and in open desert areas or flat areas. Dust devils are not related to dust storms or to monsoon thunderstorms, and can occur any time it is hot and dry.

Dust devils are also known to form on Mars.

More About Dust Devils

Dust Devils: National Weather Service


Dust Devil

Dust Devil Photo © 2006 Stephen Forbes, reprinted with permission.

More Desert Phenomena


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