Weather Whys from Texas A&M, Feb. 5, 2015

Q: I’ve heard the weatherman refer to “chinook winds.” What are they?

A: Chinook winds are very warm winds that blow down the Rockies, and the term comes from an Indian word meaning “snoweater,” says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University.  “When certain conditions are right, a Chinook wind can warm temperatures remarkably quickly and it’s not uncommon for temperatures to rise 40 degrees or more,” says McRoberts.  “A case in point occurred on Jan. 22, 1943, in Spearfish, S.D., when a Chinook wind raised temperatures 49 degrees in less than three minutes.  Winds such as the Chinook have different names all over the world depending where you live.”

Q: What are some other names of winds?

A:  In the European Alps, a Chinook is called a foehn, and the same wind in Argentina is called a zonda, he explains.  “In Southern California, hot winds are called the Santa Ana winds, named after the Santa Ana Canyon area where they frequently occur,” McRoberts adds.  “In North Africa, warm winds are often called a simoon, and in parts of the Middle East strong winds may cause intense dust storms known as haboobs.  Over the Mediterranean area, warms winds are called a sirocco, and in parts of Egypt they are called a khamsin.  Monsoon winds in Asia blow from the southeast in summer and bring heavy rains.  A katabatic wind is one that blows downsloping cold air, and in Italy, a tramontane wind is a northerly wind that blows off the coast. Again, depending where you live, winds have different names — some are warm winds, some are cold and some are pleasant.”