Saturday, June 4, 2016

Dust Devil Wows At Burlington, Vermont Airport

Dust devil at Burlington, Vermont
International Airport Wedenesday.
Photo by Charlene Whitehouse  
Charlene Whitehouse was at the Burlington International Airport in Vermont when she captured this remarkable scene.

Near the tarmac, with a nice shot of the beautiful Green Mountains, including the iconic Camels Hump in the background, was a well-formed dust devil.

It's a little disconcerting to see, especially since I'm flying out of that very airport Sunday, but the dust devil Whitehouse captured on camera, and almost all of them, are pretty damn harmless.

Still, the well defined dust devil as been the talk of local and even national meteorological circles, since it's such a cool photo. The Weather Channel even featured it. 

Dust devils usually form on hot, dry afternoons. It was 80 degrees and partly sunny Wednesday afternoon in Burlington, so close enough.

As the Weather Channel explains it:

"What likely happened in this situation was that the dark asphalt on the runway heated up faster than the surrounding grass, since grass contains moisture and absorbs some of the heat from the sun.

When this temperature contrast between different ground surfaces develops, it can overcome the large weather influence and create a mini weather patter. The warmer ground surface heats up the air above it, so the air becomes warmer than the ground and begins to rise. As it rises, it pushes through the cooler air above it and and creates a vertical column of warm, rising air.

The cool air that was pushed out of the way then circulates vertically around this column of warm, rising air. If a wind gust comes along, it can blow ths air arrangement onto its side, which forms a dust devil."

Dust devils tend not to be dangerous and last only a short while. Some of the strongest ones can cause some wind damage, but the one in Burlington wasn't likely strong enough to cause damage, had it hit anything.

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