>It’s not fog, it’s not smog, it’s not pollen. It’s sand from the Sahara, 800 miles to the south, across the Mediterranean.I’d heard about the alpine Föhnwind before I’d even set foot in the Alps, from a north German woman who told me that it supposedly made people a little crazy; it had recently been used as a defense argument in a murder trial, she’d told me (my German wasn’t good enough at the time to ask her more questions about it, such as whether it had worked in the trial. I attempted to find old news articles about it via google, but came across too many articles about electrocution. Föhn is also, appropriately enough, a German word for hair dryer.)
We’ve had days and days of Föhnwind lately, which (thanks to a Wikipedia entry) I have found is the same weather event as the Chinook in western US. On the ground, it comes as warm, dry gusts of southern winds. The sudden change in temperature and air pressure – and the relentless wind — is blamed for all sorts of things, from irritability and bad driving to headaches, fatigue and insomnia.
Normally, Föhnwinds blow all the debris out of the valley air, giving us a crystal-clear view of the mountains. This time they brought sand from the Sahara Desert up with them (uncommon but not unheard-of. I’ve had to wash fine yellow sand off my windows before.)
Does it really affect people? Well, yes; I think the change in air pressure does lead to migraines for some people. I’ve been having trouble sleeping, and from a singer’s standpoint the dry air is annoying my vocal chords. But I haven’t felt the urge to kill anyone. (Yet!)