Spring. I’ve heard many people say we don’t really get a true spring in Atlantic Canada. I guess we don’t experience typical spring weather, but it certainly is changeable, not to mention entertaining.
For example, last week this post appeared on my Facebook page from Marlene Davis:
“Wondering if anyone else felt a Small Tornado, of sorts, at all, in or around the Glenwood area, at roughly 3:15 p.m., yesterday? (Wednesday, March 27) I sure did! I heard it first, then saw leaves, small stones, sticks, twirling around in the yard. Then it lifted an approximately 75-lb. chair in my yard, about four to five feet in the air, and dropped it 20-plus feet away!”
What Marlene witnessed wasn't a tornado, but a whirlwind called a dust devil. Dust devils form in relatively dry conditions when the sun heats the surface on an otherwise cool day. The hot air near the ground rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it. As the air rises, the column of warmer air is stretched vertically and if the wind is light, will start to spin.
Dust devils form through a different mechanism than tornadoes; they are usually harmless, but rare ones can grow large enough to threaten both people and property.
“Dancing devil” is one of many terms used to describe a dust devil; a few of my favourites include dirt devil, sand auger and, from the land down under, the willy-willy.
Be on the lookout – you could encounter one, too; cool air over a surface warmed by the sun is quite common in the spring.
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.