Talk:Dust devil

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Some notes[edit]

Could we please get a disambiguation page for 'Whirlwind' as that term currently redirects here, ignoring other subjects of the same name (e.g. the computer project, the comic book character, novel, etc.)

Dust devils are known to have significant static charges, but

Terrestrial dust devils are known to be accompanied by significant electrical discharges on the order of 2000 to 3000 watts per meter.

does anybody have a source for this statement? silsor 03:00, Feb 25, 2004 (UTC)

I can field this one. The Mars Astrobiology Magazine states:

"Indeed, the Matador project measures changes in Earth's electric field that hover around 100 volts per meter but ramp up dramatically to 2,000 or 3,000 volts per meter during sudden static bursts."[1]

The Matador project was sent to a terrestrial desert (in Arizona) to research the effects of dust devils on machines.

Interestingly, this figure of two or three thousand volts per meter amounts to only six or seven volts over the length of a human body. Dust devils are not "small" as the previous editions of this entry have stated baldly, they are tens of meters in diameter and a thousand or more meters long. - Plautus satire 03:08, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)

I see now I was saying "watts" when I meant "volts". I am sorry for this mistake, I will correct it. - Plautus satire 03:10, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)

The article still makes no sense. The source you cited is not talking about electrical discharges, it is talking about the potential of the electric field. Do you know what a volt is? I am also extremely interested in your claim that "two or three thousand volts per meter amounts to only six or seven volts over the length of a human body". By your numbers, an average human being is around 400 meters tall. silsor 03:19, Feb 25, 2004 (UTC)
Good point about my off-the-cuff remark about volts over the length of a human body. What doesn't make sense, though? Yes, I know what a volt is. Human beings are not four hundred meters tall, my claim about six or seven volts over the length of a human body was wrong. Volts per meter in this case is referring to field strength as measured by the instruments used by Matador. - Plautus satire 03:43, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)

In your version of 23:51, 24 Feb 2004 I thought "damaging to terrestrial technology" meant you were referring to dust devils on Earth, so I edited it. Specifying "terrestrial technology sent to Mars" removes the confusion. Not clear though why "robotic landers and future human explorers" doesn't cover the bases. Curps

The only reason I would equivocate is because the threat isn't to the human explorers per se, it is to the technology keeping them alive in such a hostile environment. Maybe nitpicking, but then we are here to pick nits, apparently. - Plautus satire 03:57, 25 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I can state that dust devils, in common usage in the Western US, are not unequivocally 1000 meters tall; the mountains around El Paso Texas rise 1000 meters above the desert floor, and the dust devils do not rise as tall as the mountains; at most, they were 100 feet tall, just as the photograph shows. Ancheta Wis 05:42, 20 May 2004 (UTC) On this basis, I am altering the text of the article. As further evidence, I can state that I have seen dust devils on the desert floor from a mountaintop and they were not 1000 meters tall.

In the upper States of the American Midwest, they are called "whirlwinds." They range from a skirl of leaves manheight to towering pillars of dust hundreds of feet high on late spring cultivated land.

The first sentence doesn't make good grammatical sense, but I'm not quite sure how to change it. "A dust devil or whirlwind is either a large rotating updraft, anywhere from 1000 meters high or more and tens of meters in diameter, to a small vortex a few meters high." The "either" should be followed by an "or," but instead it is followed by a "to." Spleezleton 07:33, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

Linked on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day[edit]

This page is linked on 26 Apr 2005 by this picture about Martian dust devils. --Euniana/Talk/Blog 20:36, 14 May 2005 (UTC)

Don't ...[edit]

Don't underestimate these things. I have been in one, and one hour later, one killed 5 people in Texas on I - 10 by flipping some cars into opposing traffic. Martial Law 08:30, 8 April 2006 (UTC) :)

The dust devil caught the juncture where the 5th wheel trailer was hooked to a BIG pick-up and nearly flipped me and other family members. Martial Law 08:33, 8 April 2006 (UTC) :)

I was in a dust devil myself years ago and it was weak. It could only lift dirt and grass and other plant life that was dead but I saw a rock and the rock didn't move so I just went in one. It was cool but dusty. 22:56, 27 April 2006 (UTC)

Alien on Mars cleaning rover hypothesis[edit]

I took out the line about a supposed hypothesis that existed that stated that aliens may have been responsible for cleaning the solar panels on the mars rovers, instead of dust devils. The reasoning behind this is because the referenced article did in fact mention aliens, but only jokingly theorized that aliens could have been responsible for the cleaning of the panels.

MUCH better movies available[edit]

There's some great movies of the Gusev Crater dust devils on this page. I replaced a so-so press-release link from JPL with this rather dedicated list, complete with several versions of most movies, a rating system based on stars, and a color photo! Some of them show multiple devils at the same time, but I don't have the technical expertise to replace the current one. Just a suggestion. Look and you'll see what I mean.--Planetary 01:04, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

Hay Devil[edit]

I noticed that 'hay devil' forwarded to this page but isn't mentioned within it. I'm from the UK and have seen quite impressive swirls formed from loose hay on fields and even from leaves in autumn. Perhaps there could be a small mention of materials other than dust and sand which can form landspout-like phenomena.


Ref edit of 03.27 20 January 2007 by me. Would a user with more Wikipedia procedure knowledge please add the following references to the text change.
Reference[13] "Characteristics of Dust Devils in Australia" and reference [14] It is known by glider pilots that the vortex of a willy-willy observed near ground level can occasionaly be 'felt' at heights up to about 15'000 feet. 03:48, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

Fire Swirls[edit]

My edit of 08.21 22 January 2007 is my perception of the subject based on observation and experiment. I cannnot find any scientific literature on the subject to use as a citation.Geoffrey Wickham 08:13, 22 January 2007 (UTC)


A few handy references for terms are:

Evolauxia 01:40, 28 March 2007 (UTC)


If whirlwind = dust devil - dust, it doen't need its own page. 02:19, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Whirlwind is a generic term for the spectrum of whirls or vortices in the atmosphere, or in some usage specifically refers to a small whirl induced by strong winds interacting with a rough surface.[2] The article should be cleaned up or expanded to reflect this. Evolauxia 04:22, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I support merging.Geoffrey Wickham 04:22, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

Do Not Merge[edit]

Please, don't merge whirlwind with this article. Even though they are simular, they are very different! I know that they are simular phenominons, but a wirlwind is tecnicly a debris devil, since it:

                    "picks up debris as it goes along on it's jurney"
                                                     -from whirlwind(atmospheric phenomenon) 

So please listen to me, don't merge Whirlwind (atmospheric phenomenon) with dust devil!!!

                                         Thanks! --Whirlwindlover 18:46, 16 July 2007 (UTC)WhilwindloverWhirlwindlover 18:46, 16 July 2007 (UTC) 
                                                        -creator of the "wirlwind" article
A Dust devil picks up any Debris, be it dust, leaves, twigs or pieces of any material having a sufficiently low density.Geoffrey Wickham 04:29, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

I appreciate your comments, but just because it might be a separate phenomenon does not mean it warrants its own article. Additionally, Wikipedia articles must conform to a manual of style, and must especially be verifiable, meaning that the article contains reliable sources. And quoting an article which you wrote is not a very good case to keep the article. Please cite some outside sources, or else the articles must be merged, and unverifiable information deleted. -RunningOnBrains 04:38, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

in Polish[edit] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:27, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

The Mars surface images - a first?[edit]

The "movie" showing the dust devil passing in front of one of the rovers: I thought I read somewhere that this was the first time a non-Earth weather event had been visualized from the surface - can anyone confirm? I think the same might apply to the satellite shots of the Martian dust devils, too. (talk) 23:01, 13 June 2010 (UTC)

"Weather event" is really a subjective term. Clouds and dust in the air had been imaged long before that sequence was taken. It's not really something that requires mention on the page, IMHO. -RunningOnBrains(talk) 22:14, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

no mention of the term 'sand dervish' which has roots in history & sufi whirling. also pop culture (prince of persia movie, everquest 1 & 2 game) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:48, 29 August 2010 (UTC)

Whirl winds[edit]

I live out here in the northern Arizona desert, I'm taking a college course in meteorology and have read the cause of whirl winds but some things do not make sense to me. I have watched whirl winds start up in the same spot over and over again. I have seen up to 16 starting at the same spot and travel the same course across the flat lands. I realize the convection principle but why the same spot of origin? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:56, 8 September 2010 (UTC)

Not all dust devils originate as a result of hot air close to the ground funneling upward through a hot-air chimney. Sometimes horizontal air currents generate dust devils even without vertical hot-air chimneys. Horizontal-air-current-induced dust devils typically are tied to local geographical irregularities. These local irregularities may involve vertical terrain or nothing more than surface differences which result in different ground temperatures between two adjoining flat areas. A common example is a large, cool grassy area adjoining an area of bare ground that is heated to a higher temperature by the sun. As the air above the bare ground heats up, the growing difference in density between that hot air and the cooler air above the grass will eventually lead to the heavier, cooler air sinking below the hot air and flowing from the grassy area out over the adjacent bare ground. This horizontal air current causes shear-induced horizontally rolling cylinders in the boundary layer between the hot and cold layers of air. Where the cold air initially begins to flow under the hot air, this "roll" starts out as a small arch over the expanding tongue of cold air. As the flow area of the advancing cold air grows, the rolling arch under which it passes is stretched to greater length, causing it to be constricted and sped up because of conservation of angular momentum. The opposing ends of the rolling arch form two counter-rotating dust devils where the ends of the arch intersect the ground. Once formed, one of the two dust devils typically dies out quickly while the other may persist for a few tens of seconds. Besides bare ground, these horizontal-air-current-induced dust devils also often occur over hot asphalt. In many cases these ground-flow-induced dust devils become the "seeds" that initiate the vertical air currents which grow into larger dust devils. That is why many dust devils seem to be geographically tied to certain locations. Natural History magazine once published an excellent article on this subject but I have been unable to find the applicable reference. Magneticlifeform (talk) 01:48, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

Alternate name[edit]

Though rare in Ireland they are known there as shee-gaoithe meaning 'fairy wind'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:45, 4 April 2011 (UTC)

File:Martian Dust Devil Trails.jpg to appear as POTD soon[edit]

Hello! This is a note to let the editors of this article know that File:Martian Dust Devil Trails.jpg will be appearing as picture of the day on June 24, 2011. You can view and edit the POTD blurb at Template:POTD/2011-06-24. If this article needs any attention or maintenance, it would be preferable if that could be done before its appearance on the Main Page so Wikipedia doesn't look bad. :) Thanks! howcheng {chat} 16:53, 22 June 2011 (UTC)

Picture of the day
Martian dust devil trails

Trails of Martian dust devils, which appear as dark streaks on the light surface, as seen by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Dust devils are strong, well-formed, and relatively long-lived whirlwinds that can form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler, low-pressure air above it. On Mars, dust devils have unexpectedly cleaned the solar panels of the Mars rovers.

Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
ArchiveMore featured pictures...

Dust devils do damage in Las Vegas, NV, on May 8, 2012[edit]

Here are some links for the dust devils that damaged a Family Dollar store and some other random damage in Las Vegas, NV, recently. Not sure how to use these in the article. Let somebody else handle that. (talk) 03:36, 12 May 2012 (UTC)

note on air pressure[edit]

The main article states that warmer air rises up through cooler air and that wind blows towards the bottom of the dust devil. Wind generally blows from high pressure to low pressure. Bouyancy of the hot air requires higher pressure underneath that air to apply the upwards force, but wind blowing towards the base seems to indicate lower pressure there. The article does mention hot air being stretched out vertically, though, which seems to explain this. The collumn of hot air reaches all the way down to the layer of heated air at the surface, so the heated air from the surface is rising as it expands, rather than the other way around. I mention this because the main article states that the warmer air loses it's bouyancy at some point. I wonder if the word bouyancy really applies at all. Air blowing across the surface towards the dust devil gains heat and therefore either pressure or volume. Outflow at the top of the dust devil increases pressure above the surrounding surface enough to keep the heated surface air from gaining volume. At the dust devil, that heated air gains volume as it expands upwards, so the bottom of the dust devil has higher pressure than the air above it, but less pressure than the surrounding surface air. Wind blows from high to low pressure. Fencelizard (talk) 14:23, 28 June 2016 (UTC)

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Disambiguation page duster claims this to be another name of the dust devil - but it's mentioned here. Is this claim right or wrong? --KnightMove (talk) 12:18, 23 May 2017 (UTC)