Some Of The World's Winds Have Their Own Names

It's a little confusing, but there are really only three main types.

A World of Winds

Although winds can be something between annoying and destructive at times, without them the world would be a much less liveable place.

Because winds are the main way that temperatures are modified over the earth's surface. Otherwise the tropics would be unbearably hot, the poles unbelievably cold, and the area in the middle impossibly changeable.

But fortunately, winds and a number of other physical forces combine to make this world a pleasant place to live, at least most of the time.

So most of the weather we experience is accompanied by winds, some typical of the weather system of the moment, some developing at the boundary between two weather systems, and some occurring as the next weather system takes over.

These winds occur within and at the boundaries of air masses - extensive bodies of air with similar properties, and differingfrom their neighbouring air masses with different properties.

To put it slightly differently, air masses are large bodies of air which develop over different parts of the world. They can be cold or warm, moist or dry, and at home over maritime or continental regions. As the seasons come and go they expand and contract as they interact with each other, and they can begin to move, start to mix, and become a little wild at their boundaries, often influenced by the rapid high altitude jet stream winds.

Behind the air masses and their movement is a more general attemptby the atmosphere to equalize differences in temperature and airpressure over the earth's surface. The two are strongly linked, with warm air tending to rise, forming lower pressure areas, and cold air sinking to form zones of high pressure. Air will move from high pressure to low pressure, and this air movement gives us our winds.

But it is not just air masses. Within them and at their boundarieslarge and powerful weather systems form and travel over the earth's surface, most commonly in a west to east direction, and again the energy contained in them is largely redistributed by winds.

In many parts of the world different types of winds regularlyoccur at the same places, often around the same time of year, andin many instances these winds have been given local names, like the Chinook or Mistral. Almost every part of the world has its own local winds with their own local names - they may be welcomed or feared depending on their character, but they are never ignored.

And it is these winds that are the subject of this article.

But before considering them, let's narrow the field a little.

Firstly we'll leave out the local winds such as sea breezes whichregularly develop on summer afternoons on lake and sea shores. Some of these have their own local names, sometimes ending with "Doctor" in recognition of the relief they give from a hot day.

Neither will we consider the weather systems which have earned their names, often from the direction they come from, such as the North American Nor'easters, Alberta Clippers and Pineapple Expresses.

We can also leave out the seasonal weather events such as Monsoons and Trade Winds, although they may have local named winds forming part of the overall cycle. We'll also drop theworldwide high altitude jetstream winds.

And we can also exclude the most severe winds of all, the tornadoes, downbursts and hurricanes which are less predictable and more erratic in their distribution. Although it is worth noting that the names Hurricane and Typhoon were originally local names, as are the less well known names for the same weather systems, now sadly out of use, from Australia - Willy Willy and Cock Eyed Bob. So, onto the world's local winds.

Firstly, there are many of them. A good starting point is Golden Gate Weather's Names of Winds, but the list is by no means complete.

The situation becomes much clearer when it is apparent that almost all of them fit into three categories, because the weather conditions which create a notable wind in one place are usually repeated in other parts of the world.

The three categories are

  • Foehn winds - warm dry winds descending from mountain ranges
  • Outflow Winds - cold winds blowing outwards from an area, often an elevated plateau, of cold dry air usually forming part of a high pressure system. Because these winds can be stronger in and near mountain passes they are sometimes called Gap Winds.
  • Pre-frontal Winds - dry, hot and often dust laden winds which blow in advance of a frontal system. They can be very strong and unpleasant, and may be followed by thunderstorms and a change to cooler winds as they pass through.

    Foehn Winds, Outflow Winds and Pre-frontal Winds each have their own page devoted to them - click on the links and read on. This link will take you back to the Top, or, when you're ready, here's how to return to the Home page.
    But just before you move on...

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    Last update 05/25/2011