The Tramontane (Catalan: tramuntana):

is a strong, dry cold wind from the north (on the Mediterranean) or from the northwest (in lower Languedoc, Roussillon, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands). It is similar to the mistral in its causes and effects, but it follows a different corridor; the tramontane accelerates as it passes between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, while the mistral flows down the Rhone Valley between the Alps and the Massif Central.

The tramontane is created by the difference of pressure between the cold air of a high pressure system over the Atlantic ocean or northwest Europe and a low pressure system over the Gulf of Lion in the Mediterranean. The high-pressure air flows south, gathering speed as moves downhill and is funneled between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central.


The Mistral (Catalan: Mestral) is a strong, cold and usually dry regional wind in France, coming from the north or northwest, which accelerates when it passes through the valleys of the Rhone and the Durance Rivers to the coast of the Mediterranean around the Camargue region.It affects the northeast of the plain of Languedoc and Provence to the east of Toulon, where it is felt as a strong west wind. It has a major influence all along the Mediterranean coast of France, and often causes sudden storms in the Mediterranean between Corsica and the Balearic Islands. The mistral is usually accompanied by clear and fresh weather, and it plays an important role in creating the climate of Provence. It can reach speeds of more than ninety kilometers an hour, particularly in the Rhone Valley. Its average speed during the day can reach about fifty kilometers an hour, calming noticeably at night. The mistral usually blows during the winter and spring, though it occurs in all seasons. It sometimes lasts only one or two days, frequently lasts several days, and sometimes lasts more than a week.

In the south of France the name comes from the Languedoc dialect of the Provencal language and means “masterly”.


The Ponente (Catalan: Ponent)

is the traditional cardinal point West, more specifically a wind that blows from the west. The name is derived from the Latin via Italian for “setting”, meaning sunset, and appeared by that name in the traditional compass rose on the Mediterranean Sea nautical charts since the Middle Ages.

Regional variations include the Catalan “ponent” and the Spanish “poniente”, which is the name for the warm and dry westerly breeze that emanates from the Straits of Gibraltar along the west Mediterranean coast.


The libeccio (Catalan: Llebeig or Garbí)

is the westerly or south-westerly wind which predominates in northern Corsica all year round; it frequently raises high seas and may give violent westerly squalls. In summer it is most persistent, but in winter it alternates with the Tramontane (north-east or north). The word libeccio is Italian, coming from Greek through Latin, and originally means “Libyan”.


The Ostro (Catalan: Migjorn)

is the traditional Italian name of a southerly wind in the Mediterranean Sea, especially the Adriatic. Its name is derived from the Latin name Auster, which also meant a southerly wind and is part of the etymology of Australia. It is described as a warm and humid wind that often carries rain, but it is also sometimes identified with the Libeccio and Scirocco.


The Sirocco, scirocco, (Catalan: Xaloc  pronounced “shaLOC”)

is a Mediterranean wind that comes from the Sahara and reaches hurricane speeds in North Africa and Southern Europe. It is derived from the North African Arabic word for south qibli, etymologically derived from the word “qibla”.The sirocco reaching the south of France is much dryer than the marin, which is a warm, humid wind also moving to the northwest. The Xaloc usually carries red Sahara dust and is associated with storms and heavy rain, the wind being very strong, lasting about four days.

It arises from a warm, dry, tropical air mass that is pulled northward by low-pressure cells moving eastward across the Mediterranean Sea, with the wind originating in the Arabian or Sahara deserts.The hotter, drier continental air mixes with the cooler, wetter air of the maritime cyclone, and the counter-clockwise circulation of the low propels the mixed air across the southern coasts of Europe.


The Levant (Catalan: Llevant)

is an easterly wind that blows in the western Mediterranean Sea and southern France, an example of mountain-gap wind. In the western Mediterranean, particularly when the wind blows through the Strait of Gibraltar, it is called the Viento de Levante or the Levanter. It is also known as the Solano. When blowing moderately or strongly, the levant causes heavy swells on the Mediterannean. Usually gentle and damp, the levant frequently brings clouds and rain. When it brings good weather, it is known as the “levant blanc“.

The origin of the name is the same as the origin of the Levant, the region of the eastern Mediterranean: it is the Middle French word “levant”, the participle of lever “to raise” — as in soleil levant “rising sun” — from the Latin levare. It thus referred to the Eastern direction of the rising sun.


The Gregale (Catalan: Gregal)

is a Mediterranean wind that can occur during times when a low pressure area moves through the area to the south of Malta and causes a strong, cool, northeasterly wind to affect the island. It also affects other islands of the Western Mediterranean.

The name derives from the Italian grecale, which refers to the island of Zakynthos, in Greece.

This is likely to be the Euroclydon storm, from Greek Euros (east) and kludo (billow, surge) or Latin Aquilo (north) “northeaster” or the island Clauda (Acts 27:16), which wrecked the apostle Paul’s ship on the coast of Malta on his way to Rome (Acts 27:14).


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