Whirling "gravel devils" show wind can carry more than just sand

Sand grains, by definition, are between 0.06 and 2 millimeters in diameter, and they are often thought of by scientists as the largest sediments that wind can transport, with larger sediments simply being too hefty for winds to keep aloft. But strong winds, particularly in tropical storms and tornadoes, are known to move objects far larger than sand over short distances. Now, in the high Andes of Chile on the Salar Gorbea salt flat, evidence has been found of tornadic “gravel devils” whipping across the landscape and transporting gypsum crystals as long as 27 centimeters.

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Lucas Joel

Lucas Joel was EARTH's 2015 summer intern.

Joel (www.lvjwriting.com) is a freelance science journalist. He has a master's in paleontology from the University of California, Riverside, and is currently based in Boulder, Colo. 

Friday, June 16, 2017 - 06:00