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Chinooks/Foehns

  • By: Christopher Hugenholtz
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The chinook is a warm, dry, and sometimes gusty downslope wind that blows leeward of the Rocky Mountains. The term chinook is an aboriginal word meaning “snow eater,” because of the rapid melt of snow that almost invariably accompanies its occurrence in winter. It is a type of wind that occurs in many parts of the world where large orographic barriers are oriented more or less perpendicular to the prevailing direction of atmospheric circulation. Alternative names used to identify this phenomenon include the foehn in Europe, the ibe in Central Asia, the Zonda in Argentina, the Berg in South Africa, and the Nor'wester in New Zealand. The environmental consequences of chinooks include increased wind erosion, reduced air quality, vegetation mortality, and adverse health-related effects.

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