Dust devils, whirlwinds or Willy Willys

Intense surface heating and a bit of rotation can set off intriguing whirlwinds which spin up and then fade.

Dust devils, whirlwinds or Willy Willys
Blog by Jo Farrow
Issued: 22nd June 2018 17:17
Updated: 12th February 2021 17:33

A dust devil is a whirlwind of air into which dust and debris (or hay see below) gets caught up, making it visible. So, there will be plenty more of them going on, but they just won't be seen. They need dry, often sunny conditions, with strong heating of the land and light-ish surface winds. Usually, but not always, a summer phenomenon here in the UK.   They are not formed in the same way as tornadoes, they are just intense thermals of hot air rising. Rotation of the air along the ground gets kicked off by an uneven surface or increase of winds with height and the spiral tilts to an upright column. They are called Willy Willys in Australia. 

Sports fields are prone to them, interrupting games as players shield their eyes from the dust and grit. Farmers often spot them in their fields too. 

Tags: Severe Weather  Learning

Connect with us.
facebook icon twitter icon
...Or you can join the friendly and lively
Legal Terms - Privacy Policy -