Mediterranean Winds

Maestral - Mistral Wind

The mistral/maestral is a cold, northerly katabatic wind flowing into the Gulf of Lion from the southern coast of France. Maestrals are most common during winter and spring, although gale-force events can occur year-round. The wind is characterized by the sinking of cold air generated over the mountains and then funneled through the Garone Valley between the Pyrennes and the Massif Central and through the Rhone Valley farther east between the Massif Central and the Alps. In the winter, wind speeds can reach over 100 knots off the southern coast of France. Gale-force Mistrals often develop when cyclogenesis occurs over the Gulf of Genoa with the passage of the 500 mb trough through eastern France. The effects of gale-force Mistrals can extend into the western and central Mediterranean, creating high sea states throughout the entire region, especially blowing through the Strait of Bonifacio between the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. Mistrals are considered the most dangerous of all Mediterranean winds because of their high speeds and persistence. 

 In the Adriatic, the maestral has been defined as the superposition and enhancement of the etesian (a northerly wind) by the sea breeze. The name maestral is derived from the Latin magistralis meaning "masterly". This is a katabatic wind whose "riverbed" is the Rhone Valley and thus masters the whole of the French Riviera  as far as the Gulf of Lyons. 

The maestral is the most characteristic wind in the early spring and summer, has important thermoregulation activity, and as a sea wind, brings a favourable coolness. One of the main winds of the Adriatic region, it is a north-westerly wind which blows off the sea during fine weather in summer. It is the most pleasant amongst the coastal winds, blowing from the west or the north west, generally accompanied by clear skies and fine weather, thus mitigating  the summer heat. 

Dear to the nautical tourists, the Adriatic maestral is usually a gentle breeze of 3 to 10 kt (1.5 - 5 ms-) which does not reach to the end of the Gulf of Kvarner. Despite its light intensity, a choppy sea condition is sometimes produced that can adversely affect small boating. In the Adriatic, the maestral usually starts between 10 or 11 in the morning, reaches its greatest strength between 2 and 3 in the afternoon to quickly die down at sunset. The maestral is then replaced by burin, the night breeze from the north which cools the overheated dry land. By early morning, an offshore a land breeze of northeasterly flow develops and lasts until about 8 in the morning. It brings good weather and is usually accompanied by white clouds.



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This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran

Created: Thursday, June 20, 2002; Last updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
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