NEW YORK (WSYR-TV) — “Dust devils,” which look like miniature tornadoes, have been spotted around parts of New York recently.
Dust devils are a common wind phenomenon that occurs throughout much of the world, although they are not common in New York. Dust devils are dust-filled vortices created by strong surface heating, according to the National Weather Service. They are smaller and less intense than a tornado but are still pretty powerful with wind speeds that can reach 60 mph or greater.
In early April, a dust devil was spotted in Central Park, leaving bystanders puzzled and in awe. A few days later, another was spotted in Granville, New York. Then in Central New York, yet another dust devil was spotted in a corn field in Skaneateles on April 29.
How do dust devils form in New York?
Dust devils can form anywhere on a hot, calm, and dry day, however, according to the National Weather Service, these things don’t happen very often, especially in New York.
They form in areas where there’s strong surface heating between two different surface types like asphalt and dirt, or even irrigated fields and dirt roads, and usually under clear skies and light wind.
When the hotter part of the ground heats up the air above it, becoming hotter than the air around it, it creates an unstable environment causing the surface air to rise and create a vertical column of warm air forming a dust devil.
When that rising air encounters cooler air, drawing more cool air into the vortex, the dust devil starts to dissipate and collapse.
According to the American Meteorological Society, dust devils can range from 10 feet to 100 feet in width and have an average height of about 650 feet.