This is the second large dust devil to be imaged by HiRISE during the northern spring season on Mars.
Dust devils become increasingly common on the Red Planet during this time of year, when more direct sunlight and longer days means warmer air temperatures near the ground. Rising columns of warm air spiral upwards, just as they do on Earth, easily carrying the fine Martian soil aloft. Unlike Earth, though, the atmosphere above the ground is much less dense and thus rapidly rising air can achieve impressive heights.
BIG PIC: Dust Devil Spotted Whirling Across Mars
The dust devils themselves hitch a ride on the Martian wind, often leaving meandering tracks in their wake.
Even though the air is incredibly thin on Mars, dust devils have proven themselves very handy on more than one occasion at cleaning dust off the Spirit rover's solar panels. Click here to see a Spirit's-eye-view animation of dust devils in action!
So what would happen if you were caught in the path of one of these Martian twisters? Find out at the HiRISE page here.