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Canadian Weather Words
Weather events are shared experiences among a region's residents. It is not surprising, therefore, that local words enter the language to describe specific events. Across the meteorologically diverse nation of Canada, many local weather terms have arisen, including 70 unique wind names, according to Canadian climatologist Dave Phillips in his book The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry.
Several Canadian weather words have filtered into the general English weather vocabulary such as chinook and Alberta Clipper. The chinook, a hot, dry wind off the Rocky Mountains can quickly remove a snow cover, and therefore is also known as the snow-eater and rancher's friend. The chinook has a local, cold counterpart: the Yoho blow. Other cold winds include the woolly whipper, cold maker and the barber.
In the Prairie Provinces, January thaw is called the bonspiel thaw because it often arrives with the curling tournament, or bonspiel, season. The ground-drifter is a cold north wind pushing snow into drifts. Plough winds are strong, downburst winds descending from severe thunderstorms; and black blizzard describes fierce dust storms of black prairie soil.
Coastal British Columbia has several local wind names. The Qualicum is a strong sea breeze surging across Vancouver Island onto the Strait of Georgia, while the Squamish is an Arctic outbreak wind emerging from the cold continental interior through Howe Sound.
On the Arctic's Ellesmere Island, a cow storm describes a strong gale that can blow the horns off muskoxen cows.
On the western shores of Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, damaging local winds are known as Les Suetes, derived from the word for southeast: sud est. These southeasterlies are created when a frontal inversion causes a funnelling effect over the Cape Breton mountains. As the winds rush down the side of the highlands, strong gusts develop which have been recorded to exceed 150km/h (94 mph).
Newfoundlanders are especially fruitful in coining unique weather words. Here are a few.
Silver glitter describes an ice storm's deposit which then becomes a silver thaw when the ice melts. Sheila's brush names a fierce wind and snowstorm striking around St Patrick's Day that is usually considered the last of the winter. Sheila, according to legend was either St Patrick's wife, sister, or mother.
Wreckhouse winds are strong gales known for blowing trains off tracks and trucks off roads. These southeasterly winds blow along the south coast of Newfoundland west of the Burin Peninsula, as far west as Port aux Basques. The Wreckhouse winds not uncommonly gust in this part of the island stronger than over the open water due to topographical convergence. Stun breezes are a bit tamer but still strong, winds over 37 km/h (23 mph or 20 knots).
On the Rock, mauzy denotes damp and warm, muggy weather, sometimes with light rain. Oppressively hot and humid weather is loggy. Misk (or misky) describes light rain or mist; or when vapour rising from the sea after a cold night (sea smoke or steam fog). Scad is a sudden and brief rain or snow shower. And with strong winds added, a scad becomes a dwigh. Scad is not to be confused with scuddy weather which is uncertain, characterized by sudden scuds or gusts of wind.
Some of the other Canadian wind-specific words include the gentle airsome wind and fairy wind, the keewatin and siwash, the nordet, the faffering, screecher and shuff, the sheelagh, farmer's fertilizer and lambkiller, and the meringue storm.
I know I haven't exhausted Phillip's seventy-word list, and I am sure there are more both he and I have missed, particularly the very local words which might denote a wind coming off a local topographical feature or ones derived from various ethnic groups such as the Native Americans and Inuit.
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