A video recording of a rare “tornado” in Qianxi County, Tangshan, Hebei Province in northern China is widely circulating on the Internet.
People thought this was a typical tornado but later learned that it was a dust whirl, sand whirl, or dust devil.
According to the local meteorological department, the rapid increase in local temperature excites the air layer close to the ground to trigger a small cyclone.
Meteorological personnel from Qianxi County, Tangshan, said this shall be a dust devil. This one does not seem to cause much damage compared to a tornado. A dust devil is usually small in scope and limited in its destructive power. The tornado spread over a far distance, from about 25 to 100 meters, while the dust devil only spans a few meters.
Besides, a tornado falls from the sky, while the dust devil rises from the ground up. And the dust devil usually occurs on sunny days. It will spring up if the air near the ground is volatile and strongly heated by the sun. It can reach as high as 30 m, but there have been dust devils up to 1 km tall on occasion.