Winds From Around the World

Which term describes hot dusty winds in North Africa?

And the answer: Sirocco.  

Photo credit: antropocene.it.

A Sirocco is a hot dusty wind that can reach hurricane speeds, blowing from North Africa across the Mediterranean, into southern Europe. While at first the air is very dry in the Sahara Desert, by the time it crosses the Mediterranean and reaches Europe, it becomes oppressively humid.

Sirocco winds originate in hot, dry air over the Saharan desert. They pick up dust as they blow northward over North Africa, which is then carried offshore and over the southern Mediterranean Sea, greatly reducing visibility. In many cases, these strong, persistent winds will move dust northward toward the Balkans and cover far southern Italy and portions of Greece in a thick, dusty haze. These winds are so strong, they can be seen from space!

As it travels northward, a Sirocco can cause clouds, fog and rain over northern Mediterranean areas. The sweltering weather during a Sirocco event can causes physical side effects too, such as headaches and insomnia.

These winds can affect everything from beach-going to passenger ships to local population centers. It is one among several intense, global winds, such as France's Mistral and Canada's Chinook.

To experience the winds first hand (so to speak), check out the video from Sicily below.


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