• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Almanac: Chinook Wind

Air Date: Week of January 18, 2002

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

This week, facts about a Chinook Wind that swept through a South Dakota town, causing the fastest temperature change in history.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Residents of the town of Spearfish, South Dakota, woke up to a thermal surprise on the morning of January 22nd, 1943. That's the day the temperature in Spearfish rocketed up 49 degrees in just two minutes. At seven-thirty in the morning it was a bitterly cold minus four degrees, but by 7:32 it had jumped to a relatively balmy 45. The phenomenon is still in the weather record books as the fastest temperature change ever recorded.

The cause of this fast warm-up was something called the Chinook Wind. "Chinook" means "snow eater" in the language of some Native Americans, and the warm, dry wind certainly does eat up snow cover. Chinooks happen when warm air pours down a mountainside, and in Spearfish, the dramatic Chinook came up over the Black Hills. Unique air currents caused wind from one side of the hills to heat up drastically as it descended into the cold air mass on the other side of the hill. Despite respite from the cold, Chinook winds can create problems, though. The hot, dry air has been known to start wild fires, and damage plants. Similar winds in the Alps have caused deadly avalanches. And the Chinooks can be cruelly unpredictable.

In Spearfish in 1943, the pleasant weather lasted only an hour, before the temperature dropped back to minus five degrees in less than 30 minutes. Car windshields cracked, and cattle and people alike were stunned, as the season seemed to change from winter to spring and back again, all before lunch. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC: Chet Atkins, "Windy and Warm" (acoustic)]

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.