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Almanac for May 1998
They Call The Wind
The wind whispering through the forest, the wind howling across the prairies, the wind murmuring in the night. How many of us have heard the voices of the winds? How many have responded to that voice? Men have heard the aeolian voice and called it by name. Homer spoke of the four winds: Boreus, Euros, Notos and Zephyros as the flowed from the north, east, south and west, respectively. Lerner and Lowe called the wind Maria as did George Stewart's junior meteorologist in the classic Storm. The names Carla, Hazel, Andrew and Hugo revive bitter memories of howling hurricane winds and torrential rains. Dorothy rode a Kansas cyclone or twister on her way to see the Wizard of Oz.
Authors from Ancient Greece to Twentieth Century America have penned lines in praise or condemnation of the winds, but it is to the common men and women that we turn our ear for the poetic names of the vagrant wind.
Ancient humans deified the winds in hope of assuaging their fits of anger or enticing its beneficial moments. The Chinese called the wind fung meaning the envoy of heaven and earth. The Hindu called it Indra and the Japanese Fujin. Sailors on the sea who depended upon the proper combination of wind and sail spoke of the winds as nor'easters, gales and trade winds as well as the lack of them: the doldrums.
Moving across the Mediterranean Sea from the deserts of northern Africa is a wind known as the Sirocco. The effect of this wind on residents of Spain, Italy, Greece and Sicily causes nerves to become raw and tempers to flair as the combination of heat and oppressive humidity becomes insufferable. Before crossing the sea and gaining a load of moisture, the Sirocco also brings discomfort for those inhabiting the northern rim of the great Sahara Desert, lashing them with dust, sand and dry, hot air. The Sirocco goes by many different names here: Simoom (Arabia), Ghibli (Libya), Harmattan (Algeria), Haboob (Sudan) and Khamsin (Egypt). Northern Africa does not, however, have sole claim on uncomfortable desert winds. In North America, the dusty desert wind is call a Black Roller; in Argentina, the Zonda; in Australia, the Brickfielder. Even fair Hawaii has a dry wind blowing from its arid interior: the Naalehu.
Down the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains rolls a wind across the prairies and plains, often quickly melting winter snows: the Chinook, the Snow Eater. The Chinook belongs to a family of winds known as foehn or fall winds. The Chinook has been know to raise the temperature in Calgary, Alberta to over 10oC (50oF) in February while removing all snow from the ground in a matter of hours. While this wind can be welcome in the northern Rockies, its American cousin, the Santa Ana in southern California desiccates the already dry chaparral. The tinder dry landscape easily ignites and the resulting brush fires are fanned by the high winds as it rushed down the mountain slopes.
When fall winds flow southward, the are capable of bringing cool air masses down to generally balmy coasts. Along northern Mediterranean shores, these winds are called the Mistral and the Bora. In Mexico they are known as the Tehautepecer.
More violent winds are members of the hurricane family. The typhoon of the western Pacific comes from the Chinese ty fung or "great wind." Australians name it the Willy-Willy, but in the Bay of Bengal, they are Cyclones while further east in the Philippines, the name is Baguoi. Winds of great strength but not classified as hurricanes include the Frisk Vind in Sweden; the Landlash in Scotland; the Bufo in Japan, the Kohala in Hawaii, the Williwaw in Alaska and the Vinds-Gnyr in Iceland.
But not all winds are destructive or strong, some are gentle and mild. The Cat's Paw ripples the pond waters of America; the Sveszhest flows across Russia; the Thalwind meanders down German valleys while the Chwa rustles the trees in Wales. From across the sea comes the Ponente to Italy, the Solano to Spain and the Imbat to north Africa to cool hot days.
Some winds blow briefly like the gust or the puff or Sz. Others blow for endless days such as the Bad-I-Sad-O-Bist-Roz, the wind of a hundred and twenty days over Iran and Afghanistan and the Howling Fifties encircling Antarctica.
Listen to the song of the sky. Hear the aeolian harps on high. Be free and ride the winds. Surf the Kadja into Bali and float with the Kohilo across Oahu. Forget the Texas Norther and meander through Japanese pine forests upon a Matsuhaze. West wind, west wind, where do you wander tonight? Until we meet again, may your sails be filled with a gentle breeze and the stars show your way.
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