Fire whirls and dust devils seem to form more often at low wind speeds in open terrain," wrote Royal. "It's common to see dust devils and small fire whirls form on recently burned ground. The heat from the fresh burn plus the added solar heating makes for low-level instability and any errant gust of wind can produce a whirl."
The research team also showed how a fire tornado is fundamentally different from a fire whirl, which is commonly associated with fires. "Tornadoes are associated with thunderstorms and as such they are anchored to a thundercloud above, and are able to sporadically lift off the ground. Fire whirls, on the other hand, are anchored to the ground and do not require the presence of a thunderstorm," Dr Sharples said.
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