whirlwind, revolving mass of air resulting from local atmospheric instability, such as that caused by intense heating of the ground by the sun on a hot summer day. Examples of whirlwinds are waterspouts, tornadoes, small whirls of dust or leaves, and the sand whirls of the desert, called dust devils or dust whirls.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.