Formed under special atmospheric conditions, Katabatic Winds are formed when the air flowing over a mountainous area moves downward following the contours of the lee side of the mountain slope, both warming and drying as it descends. This type of air sometimes behaves like an avalanche, gathering speed as it descends. When it reaches the flat land below the mountain, velocity can exceed 100 miles per hour in exposed areas.

In some of its milder forms, this type of descending air and the resulting warm, drying, persistent wind has taken on many localized names.

Area/ Local Name

Western Prairies/ Chinook
Alpine Europe/Foehn
Southern France/Mistral
The Sierrras /The Washoe Zephyr
Southern California/ The Santa Ana

Because Katabatic Winds are warm and dry, they have a huge appetite for moisture and cause it to disappear. Katabatic Winds are rumored to produce physiological effects on humans such as nervousness, instability and a general sense of malaise.