Mediterranean winds

Mallorca

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Prevailing Mediterranean winds

Winds in the Mediterranean are very characteristic. Most of the disturbances are formed in the Balearic Islands and the coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

It has a great variety of fauna and flora as it is an intercontinental sea that bathes 20 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa and has certain characteristics that are necessary to know, such as its winds if you want to sail safely in its warm and crystalline waters.

The climate in summer is hot and dry due to the action of the southern air masses together with the scorching and dry air mass of the Sahara, with an average temperature of 24ºC in the water. Winters are characteristically mild and rainy, with cold spells due to oceanic air from the Atlantic and onshore winds blowing from the cold continental anticyclones to the low pressures of the Mediterranean.

All these variations give rise to a series of seasonal winds that we must be aware of.

We are going to explain each of them.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

In the Mediterranean we find different winds depending on the time of the year and the best way to recognise the direction is through the wind rose or compass rose. Each point indicates the direction from which the wind is coming, unlike the compass, the cardinal points on the rose represent the geographical point and not the magnetic point. 

  • Norte o Tramontana
  • Gregal
  • Levante
  • Siroco o Xaloc
  • Mitjorn
  • Garbí Llebech o Lebeche
  • Poniente Ponent
  • Mistral, Mestral, Maestral o Cierzo

The winds

TRAMONTANA

The tramontana (from the Latin transmontanus, “from beyond the mountain”). 

It is a cold, dry north-westerly wind, which blows from the Mediterranean coasts towards the sea, can easily reach 50 knots and is caused by cold air from the mountains and the presence of a high pressure system.

It comes from the mountains and is characteristic of the Catalan coast and the north of the Balearic Islands. This is a north wind that can last for days with very strong gusts.

The tramontana wind is relatively frequent in the Spanish Mediterranean, especially during the winter months. 

As a curiosity about this wind, we should add that in Mallorca there is a mountain range called Serra de Tramontana, so called because of the incidence of this wind on its orography, which is why the expression “losing the tramontana” meant that sailors had lost sight of the North Star, whereas nowadays this phrase is associated with losing one’s mind.

GREGAL

Gregal comes from graegalis, which literally means from Greece.  

It is a northwesterly wind that occurs when low pressure moves south of Malta. It is present in the central Mediterranean off the coasts of Sicily, Malta and the Ionian Sea. In Spain, it is a wind characteristic of the Balearic Islands, which hits especially during the month of February, although it can also occur during the rest of the year.

The Gregal is a cold and dry wind that often has the force of a storm, producing strong swells and swells.

LEVANTE

This name is given in the Mediterranean to the East wind and course. On the wind roses of the charts and nautical needles, it was indicated by a Greek cross, as it was the direction of Jerusalem.

The Levante is an easterly wind from the Mediterranean coast that starts off the Balearic Islands and makes its way towards the Strait of Gibraltar, where it reaches its maximum capacity.

These winds are most frequent between May and October, although they can occur at any time of the year.

The intensity is very variable and can be so high as to prevent ships from leaving some ports.

As a curious fact, this wind gives its name to the east coast of Spain as well as to one of the football teams of the Valencian Community.

SIROCO, XALOC OR JALOQUE

It is the southeast wind, dry and warm, typical of the Mediterranean.

It comes from the Sahara and can reach speeds of up to 50 knots, causing temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius.

Sirocco is most common between February and July, although it can also form at other times of the year.

It sometimes carries a reddish dust that is actually fine desert sand, which fills the air with particles, creating low visibility, especially along the coasts.

A curious fact is that the Volkswagen car brand has made a sports car called Siroco in honour of this wind.

MIGJORN OR MEDIODÍA

Migjorn, the south wind or midday wind. It reaches its maximum intensity when the sun is at its highest point.

When a storm forms in Portugal and at the same time there is an anticyclone in Italy, the Migjorn is formed, causing hot, dry air.

GARBÍ, LEBECHE OR LLEBEIG

The Garbí or Lebeche is caused by the movement of storms in the southern Mediterranean from west to east. Due to its origin, it is normally accompanied by sand or dust because it comes from the Sahara desert, hence its characteristic reddish colour.

In its movement, it causes hot, dry air masses to move from the desert towards the southeast of Spain.

These winds are a harbinger of fog on the southern horizon.  A wind similar to the Garbí is the Sirocco, although it blows from east to west.

MISTRAL, MESTRAL OR CIERZO

In the Mediterranean, the wind coming from the northwest was called Maestral or Mistral, also known as cierzo in Aragon, which blows from the Mediterranean coasts towards the sea, between the mouth of the Ebro River and the sea of Genoa.

It is a fresh, dry and violent wind, which can reach speeds of 100 km/h to 140 km/h.

It is produced by the nocturnal cooling of the ground in coastal regions and is intensified by the increase in pressure in north-western Europe. It also increases its speed when it moves between mountains and cuts through narrow valleys.

PONIENTE OR PONENT

It is so called because it blows from the direction in which the sun sets.

It is a westerly wind, warm and humid, formed by the difference in pressure between one or more squalls located in the Atlantic and an anticyclone below, located over North Africa. 

It is considered an excellent option for sailing along the coasts of the peninsula as it leaves behind very sunny days and no waves. 

Now that you know some of the prevailing winds in the Mediterranean, do you dare to sail with them?

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Mediterranean winds

In the Mediterranean we find different winds depending on the time of the year and the best way to recognise the direction is through the wind rose or compass rose. Each point indicates the direction from which the wind is coming, unlike the compass, the cardinal points on the rose represent the geographical point and not the magnetic point. 

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