Air Conditions of Different Types of Wind

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  • 0:01 What Is Wind?
  • 1:20 Chinook Wind
  • 4:21 Santa Ana Wind
  • 6:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Winds are all the same, right? Actually no. This lesson will examine different types of wind including the Chinook, a type of foehn wind, and the Santa Ana winds, a type of katabatic wind.

What is Wind?

Tonight on 'Whirlwind Romance,' we are going to interview two different types of winds in hopes of finding our eligible bachelorette, Marlie the Meteorologist, a match. Now a little on Marlie before we start. Marlie is trying to find a nice wind who can keep her warm at night, and as a meteorologist, Marlie studies the weather, so you can see why she is interested in dating wind!

Before we bring out our two eligible wind bachelors, let's explain what wind is and how it forms. Wind is simply air in motion that is caused by differences in pressure. Uneven heating of the earth causes this difference in pressure. Air that is colder is denser, thus creating greater pressure. If you take a look at this parcel of cold air, you can see that when more molecules are close together, they are going to bump into their container more often, which results in higher pressure.

Cold air molecules in blue, warm air molecules in red
Graphic of cold and warm air molecules

And in this parcel of warm air, you can see that the molecules are further apart; therefore, it is less dense, resulting in lower pressure. Air flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, and this airflow is wind!

I could go on and on, but our guests are becoming impatient, and we don't want them to blow away and leave Marlie all alone! So, let's bring out our first guest: the Chinook wind!

Chinook Wind

Welcome to the stage, Chinook wind. Now, Marlie can't see you, but she will be able hear about you, so let's get started!

I understand that Chinook actually means 'snow eater,' so I'm guessing you are a warm wind that causes snow to melt? Yep, it sounds like it! So, on your bio it says Chinook winds are warm and dry foehn winds that blow down the eastern slopes of the Rockies. These warm winds can be a brief reprieve from the cold, harsh winters found in the Canadian Rockies!

But what in the world is a foehn wind? Well, Chinook winds are a type of foehn wind, and foehn is German and translates into 'hair dryer.' So, as you might expect, foehn winds are dry and warm winds that can be found on the leeward side of a mountain. Well, you might not have expected the leeward mountain bit but, like a hair dryer, foehn winds blow dry, warm air! And, by the way, the leeward side of a mountain is the side protected from the prevailing wind -- so it's usually the eastern side of a mountain because wind typically blows from west to east.

In order to give Marlie some background information to ensure you're the right wind for her, let's learn a little bit more on how you form. I see here that foehn winds, like you, form when moist air hits a mountain. In your case, Chinook winds form when this moist air comes off of the Pacific Ocean and hits the Canadian Rocky Mountains. When this moist air hits the mountain, it's forced upward where it starts to cool. Now, as it cools, it reaches its saturation point, meaning the air mass can't hold any more water vapor, so the water vapor starts to condense, forming clouds and precipitation, thus releasing the excess water. The air mass dries out, passes over the mountain peak and then slides down the leeward side of the mountain as dry, warm air.

How foehn winds are created
Air cycle for foehn winds

Certain areas might be a temperate rain forest on one side of the mountain, where the air is saturated and condenses causing precipitation, and dry on the other side of the mountain because the air has released much of its water content.

So, I can see how you get the nickname 'snow eater,' because you melt the snow! You must also give relief to the people living on the eastern side of these cold mountains! Other than the Canadian Rockies, where can foehn winds be found? It looks like in the United States, the Rockies, in Europe in the Alps and even in China in the Qinling and Tianshan! Wow, quite the world traveler!

Now, for the part of the show I don't love. We went ahead and pulled up your police record to see if you caused any problems. Chinook winds, like you, can cause red belts, or strips where the temperature fluctuation kills trees. Not to mention, the snowmelt can cause problems for animals that depend on the extra insulation in the brutal winter months. And other types of foehn winds can cause droughts and make forest fires worse!

You know, even with that record, I think you sound delightful for Marlie! But, it wouldn't be fair unless we gave our second guest some time on the stage. So, goodbye for now wind of many names: Chinook, foehn and snow eater!

Santa Ana Wind

Welcome to the stage Santa Ana wind! And, like our first guest, the Santa Ana winds are dry, warm winds, but, unlike the Chinook winds, these winds blow westward towards the coast and are found in Southwest California. Remember, the Chinook winds blew down the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains, so they went from west to east.

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