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Farmers drive beside dust devil in arid Australia. Video by Nathan Johnston and Gregory Mark Weber

VIDEO: Farmers drive past gigantic dust devil

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Monday, February 15, 2016, 10:49 AM - The farmers who shot the video above are in less danger than it appears, but it's still amazing how close they are to that enormous dust devil.

Nathan Johnston and Gregory Mark Weber spotted the towering column of dust while driving in the area of Walgett, in the Australian state of New South Wales on Sunday, posting the video on the Internet.

Though similar in appearance to tornadoes, dust devils are formed by a strong upwelling of warm air combined with wind shear. Tornadoes are a totally different phenomenon, and are always formed by, and attached to, severe thunderstorms. While tornadoes can feature winds blowing hundreds of kilometres per hour, most dust devils are too weak to do much, though larger ones can pick up small structures like unsecured sheds.

Still, the sheer amount of dust in the column is an indicator of the agricultural disaster facing parts of Australia. 

New South Wales is one of several states receiving lower than average rainfall in recent years. Weber says drought conditions have persisted for four years in his part of New South Wales.

"Farmers expect to miss out on a year or two income, due to the traditionally marginal rainfall, but having to survive, without help, into the fourth year of drought is beyond imagination and belief,” Weber says.

The long-term dry conditions have severely raised the risk of bushfires. A recent study found the number of weekly bushfires in the already-arid company jumped 40 per cent between 2008 to 2013, according to ABC.

SOURCES: Storyful | ABC

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