Despite the fact that my job is all about the atmosphere, the one thing that is guaranteed to ruin my day is wind. Not passing wind, that’s hilarious, but unrelenting, tree-bending, dust-blowing, hair-mussing wind that come from air migrating from one spot to another.
In Catalonia, this is hatred is proving to be unfortunate. Wind is a defining feature of the climate here, particularly during winter and the transition to spring. During this time of year, a high pressure system often sets itself up to the west of Spain, and an opposing low pressure system plonks itself to the east of the UK.
Like a marble at the top of a hill, air naturally wants to go from the high to the low, but the rotation of the Earth pushes it off course, and cold air is channeled from the north across southern France and northern Spain.
According to this amazing-looking paper from 1949, the ‘great atmospheric current’ created by these systems is split in Spain by the Pyrenees, and forms the tramontane and mistral (or tramontana and mestral in Catalan).
In the north near Girona (Dali’s ‘hood), the bitterly cold tramontana wind races across the Pyrenees. People who live there are known to be ‘tocats per al vent‘, or mentally ‘touched’ by the wind. As I raged my way to work this morning against the wind I could kind of understand why the murder and suicide rates go up in the region if the tramontana blows for more than 10 days.
Around Tortosa, the furious northwest mestral wind races along the Ebro River, funneled by the mountains on either side. This week we’ve had four days of 35–50 km an hour winds, with gusts up to 107 km/hr. My colleagues tell me that people from around here are also considered kind of strange (and loud!) because of the wind.
A distinctive cloud forms over the nearby Ports when the mestral is a’blowin called la cella, or ‘the eyebrow’. As you can see, it is a pretty apt description.
There are also some amazing orographic clouds (clouds that form when air flows over a mountain) that have formed every day this week, making for some impressive sunsets. Not that I can see them from all the dust in my eyes!