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Snow Eaters: What are Chinook Winds?

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Normally when the wind blows in the winter it makes for even cooler feeling temperatures. There is, however, an exception to the rule.

Chinook winds are unseasonably warm winds that can cause extreme increases in temperatures within a few hours. As these winds move east, they rise over the western slopes of the mountains then descend, becoming extremely dry and much warmer. Air naturally warms as it sinks, but dry air warms almost twice as fast as moist air.

This is why the temperature change caused by the Chinook winds is so drastic, sometimes warming as much as 40 degrees in a matter of minutes causing snow to literally vanish.

While Chinook winds snow eating capability makes winter grazing available for livestock, which drops the price of feed, it also causes extreme changes in temperatures, causing many plants to die of dehydration. The winds can also spread fires easily because of the extremely dry air.

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