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Sirocco Envy

Vol. III, No. 70

by Daniela Clark

Palm trees in Florida show a strong Westerly wind. Photo by Allen Clark /

Palm trees in Florida show a strong Westerly wind. Photo by Allen Clark /

Should wind directions have names? Reading a travelogue from a yacht charterer in Turkey, I was reminded recently that Europeans have such cool names to describe wind directions. While “Easterly” and “Northwesterly” are undeniably clear and descriptive, they’re pretty boring compared to names like Sirocco, Mistral, and Meltemi. In fact, there are dozens and dozens of creatively-named winds in countries around the world. Take Australia’s Willy-willy, Guatemala’s Tehuantepecer, Nicaragua’s Papagayo, or Australia’s Brickfielder. Yes, Australia has a lot of cool ones, of course.

So why don’t we have more romantic names to describe certain winds?

Actually, a little bit of research has helped me learn, and remember in some cases, that we North Americans do have some creatively named wind directions and weather systems. We just don’t seem to have them on the East Coast. This great National Geographic article has a list of some of the more interesting wind names we have in the US:

  • Chinook- West-East wind that flows down the Rocky Mountains
  • Santa Anas- Hot wind East-West wind in California, known for spreading wildfires
  • Coromuel- Warm midday wind around the California-Mexico border
  • Hawk- Cold East-West breeze on Lake Michigan
  • November witch- hurricane-force winds on the Great Lakes


So we do have a few of our own, but for the most part, they sound pretty mean. At least those of us watching the weather news today got to hear one that’s more fun: the Pineapple Express. And it’s delivering some good rain to the draught-stricken Northern California coast.