03/30/2013 14:16 EDT | Updated 05/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebecers could see dust devils, Environment Canada warns

Environment Canada says Quebecers should be on the lookout for dust devils today.

Serge Mainville, a meteorologist for Environment Canada, said dust devils are sudden, circulating columns of air that suck up dust.

Unlike tornados, the whirlwinds take shape from the ground up because of contrasts in air temperature.

Mainville said differences in temperatures between hot and cold surfaces can force hot air to rise and cold air to fill the vacuum, subsequently creating a high-speed air cycle.

The hot air typically continues to rise until the atmosphere is warmer than the ambient moving air.

Mainville said a dust devil on a clear day like today could be up to two kilometres tall, though dust particles would not rise that high because they are too heavy.

Environment Canada cautions people to steer clear from dust devils if they see them. It says people could be injured by debris that are carried into the tube-like system.

A dust devil in Quebec City traveled across the tarmac at the airport and damaged part of a greenhouse 10 years ago, according to Mainville.

More recently, Serge Labelle, a resident of Sainte-Hyacinthe, captured footage of a dust devil on March 17.