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This image is from a satellite way up in the sky that takes pictures of the Earth. This picture shows the smoke from a fire over the ocean. The fire was in Southern California and was spread by the Santa Ana winds, a type of foehn wind.
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Courtesy of MODIS Rapid Response

Type of Wind: Chinook or Foehn

There are several different types of wind. One type is the foehn wind. This type of wind is found on the eastern side of a mountain and is warm and dry. Some mountainous areas that have this type of wind are the Rocky Mountains and the Alps. In North America, the name for the foehn wind off of the Rocky Mountains is the Chinook wind.

A warm wind like this can help bring relief from cold winter weather. Foehn winds are formed from warmer air being flowing from above. This wind is as strong as some hurricane winds. Foehn winds can melt and evaporate a foot (0.3 meters) of snow in less than a day! These winds can create a fast change in temperature. Temperatures in Granville, ND warmed up by 83º F (28ºC) on February 21, 1918 because of a Chinook wind coming from the Rocky Mountains!

In addition to causing warmer temperatures, foehn winds have other impacts. They can cause snow to melt quickly, leading to avalanches and flash floods. Foehn winds can also create fire hazards. The Santa Ana winds in California are an example of foehn winds. Santa Ana winds have caused brush fires to turn into forest fires. Foehn winds can also dry out the soil so it is hard for farmers to plant crops in the spring.

These winds can be found all over the world where there are mountains and each place has a unique name for them. In Poland, a foehn wind is called halnywiatr. In Romania, this wind is named austru and in Switzerland it is called favogn. Finally, foehn winds in the Andes Mountains are called puelche.

Last modified June 26, 2008 by Vanessa Pearce.

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