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Inside the Storm: New Mexico dust devil

Inside the Storm: New Mexico dust devil Video courtesy Aaron Rigsby / Live Storms Media

Oklahoma is known for its tornado chasing. In parts of New Mexico you can go dust devil chasing!

That’s exactly what happened today in Albuquerque when a violent dust devil crossed I-40. It didn’t destroy anything beyond plants and some bugs and/or mouse’s afternoon plans, but it did cause briefly dangerous driving conditions for truckers and car drivers along the highway.

Dust devils are similar to tornadoes in that they’re whirling columns of air that can loft things high above the ground. But that’s about all they have in common. Where tornadoes can have winds in excess of 300 m.p.h., dust devils rarely exceed 80.

Technically tornadoes are caused by supercell thunderstorms or lines of strong thunderstorms. They also descend from the cloud to the ground and are called tornadoes upon contact (funnel clouds before that). A tornado is also most commonly connected to a mesocyclone, or rotating updraft in a supercell thunderstorm. This differs from a dust devil, which is exclusively a rapidly rotating column of air caused by rising hot air from the surface.

Dust devils usually occur in clear, sunny and hot/dry conditions.

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