Dust devils are a fascinating part of meteorology.
We are not sure about you, but severe weather always seems to have a hand in ruining or at least making our camping trips more interesting. For us, it is usually a downpour or simple thunderstorm that rolls in to shake things up. At worst, you might have a little water in your tent, or your clothing might be soaked.
As the old saying goes, things could always be worse. A good example of that is this video of wildlife filmmakers camping. Suddenly, and without warning, a large dust devil forms and rips through the campsite, sending tents, air mattresses and more flying high with the sudden column of air.
It comes as quite the surprise and leaves the filmmakers a little shaken as they try to gather up the gear that has been tossed everywhere. These things are not as powerful as tornadoes and waterspouts, but they do enough damage to be annoying, especially when you are just trying to camp!
As quickly as these violent, whirling vortices arrive, they dissipate just as quickly. Which means it is not exactly something the National Weather Service can predict. Over the years, meteorologists have determined dust devils form a combination of hot and cool air. When the warm air masses rise quickly through a patch of cooler air. Things get technical from there, but as the updraft of hot air rises, it causes the spinning action that helps it resemble a tornado. While most have relatively tame wind speeds, some especially destructive ones have caused real damage to homes in the past.
While dust devils are more common in areas with higher surface temperatures like the deserts of Arizona, this natural phenomenon can form practically anywhere. Unlike tornadoes, they often form under clear skies before rising in spectacular sand pillars. This same phenomenon also causes whirlwinds on lakes and oceans and even "fire devils" in brushy areas where a wildfire is burning. Scientists at NASA have even observed Martian dust devils whirling on the surface of Mars.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in this incident, although I understand the frustration. That was some expensive camera equipment, and all those dust particles cannot be good for it. Not to mention the annoyance of having to chase their tents and everything that was inside! We may never complain about a little rain on a camping trip ever again!