Monday 12 July 2010

Some Winds

In 1274 Kubla Khan tried to invade Japan. He got an awful lot of soldiers and had just landed them and was getting ready for a nice battle when it started to rain and the wind began to blow. So, rather than risk their being marooned, the troops were ordered back into the boats. This was a mistake because the wind was very strong indeed and all the ships sank.

Not to be deterred Kubla tried again in 1281 and this time an even bigger typhoon raged for two days straight and spoiled everything. The Japanese were now convinced that Japan was being saved from invasion by "Divine Winds". The Japanese for divine was Kami and the Japanese for wind was Kaze and so the defenders of Japan in the 1940s were called Kamikazes.

Kubla was forced to return to the mainland and concentrate on pleasure domes.

The Chinook helicopters, of which the RAF do not seem to have enough, are named after a spring breeze that blows in North Western America and melts the snow away.

The Mistral blows southward through Provence. It's name comes from the Latin magister, meaning master, for this is a dominant wind. It gives you a headache and (I once heard but cannot confirm) that in Medieval French law if the mistral had blown for three days that would be considered a defence for murdering your wife.

The Simoom (which is alluded to in Edgar Allen Poe's Berenice) is an Arabic wind, formed on the uplands and driven down to the lowlands where the pressure increases its temperature in quite incredible and incomprehensible ways. In 1859 there was a simoom in Santa Barbara, California. The morning was a pleasant twenty-something (70s F) degrees and then at noon the temperature shot up to 54 degrees, or 133 degrees Fahrenheit, where it remained for the next few hours.

The people hid in their houses. The animals died on their feet.

It can be hot in the Lake District, damned hot


  1. When I was growing up in the wild west (AKA Montana), we were taught in school that "chinook" literally translates to "snow-eater."

    Wikipedia, on the other hand, says that my seventh grade social studies teacher was full of crap. So there you go.

  2. The Chinook, while hellish for migraine sufferers, is the most exhilarating weather phenomenon I've ever experienced, with the possible exception of a Provencal thunderstorm. From -30 at bedtime, to +10 at breakfast next morning - January 1992 in Calgary. It tends to confuse the trees and makes for very dirty streets.

    Loved the kamikaze explanation!

  3. The Antipodean, living in a place where the hot wind is called an Easterly for boring and obvious reasons,14 July 2010 at 09:27

    Apparently, in Delhi, they call their evil wind the Loo although Google has been unable to tell me why.

  4. The Antipodean, remembering what she thought when she first saw the title of this post, returned and14 July 2010 at 16:38

    Darn it, forgot to make a carminative joke.