Viewer video shows a well-defined dust devil near Trinity this afternoon. Scott Owens sent us this video.
This is not a tornado, nor a funnel cloud.
Tornadoes do not form out of a clear sky– this is a classic example of a dust devil, and it appears to be a pretty big one at that.
The Weather Prediction explains this simply: “A dust devil can exhibit a circulation on the ground but since it is not associated with a convective storm, it is not a tornado. A dust devil typically also has weaker winds than a tornado.”
Usually when you hear the term “wind shear,” you immediately think of severe weather– that’s because wind shear is often times a big player in severe weather outbreaks.
Wind shear isn’t always associated with severe weather.
Naturally, wind shear occurs daily in the atmosphere. Just as you might see swirls or eddies in a flowing river, the atmosphere works the same way. Sometimes it’s on the scale of a simple pile of leaves being swirled around, or in a large parking lot or sports field, lots of sand or dust can be picked up.
Here’s a cool fact– dust devils also occur on other planets!
A Martian dust devil roughly 12 miles (20 kilometers) high was captured winding its way along the Amazonis Planitia region of Northern Mars on March 14, 2012 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Despite its height, the plume is little more than three-quarters of a football field wide (70 yards, or 70 meters).