Simoom

Simoom (Arabic: سمومsamūm; from the root س م م s-m-m, سم "to poison") is a strong, dry, dust-laden wind. The word is generally used to describe a local wind that blows in the Sahara, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and the deserts of Arabian Peninsula. Its temperature may exceed 54 °C (129 °F) and the humidity may fall below 10%. Alternative spellings include samoon, samun, simoun, and simoon. Another name used for this wind is samiel (Persian samyeli). Simoom winds have an alternative type occurring in the region of Central Asia known as "Garmsil" (гармсель).

The name means "poison wind" and is given because the sudden onset of simoom may also cause heat stroke. This is attributed to the fact that the hot wind brings more heat to the body than can be disposed of by the evaporation of perspiration.

The Nuttall Encyclopædia described the simoom:

The storm moves in cyclone (circular) form, carrying clouds of dust and sand, and produces on humans and animals a suffocating effect.[1]

A 19th-century account of simoom in Egypt reads:

Egypt is also subject, particularly during the spring and summer, to the hot wind called the "samoom," which is still more oppressive than the khamasin winds, but of much shorter duration, seldom lasting longer than a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. It generally proceeds from the south-east or south-south-east, and carries with it clouds of dust and sand.[2]

In North America

It has been alleged that a "simoom" occurred on June 17, 1859 in Goleta and Santa Barbara, California. Local historian Walker Tompkins wrote that during the morning, the temperature hovered around the normal 24 to 27 °C (75 to 81 °F), but around 1 PM, strong super hot winds filled with dust began to blow from the direction of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north. By 2 PM, the temperature supposedly reached 56 °C (133 °F). This temperature was said to have been recorded by an official U.S. coastal survey vessel that was operating in the waters just offshore, in the Santa Barbara Channel. At 5 PM, the temperature had reportedly dropped to 50 °C (122 °F), and by 7 PM, the temperature was back to a normal 25 °C (77 °F). Tompkins provided a supposed quote from a U.S. government report saying, "Calves, rabbits and cattle died on their feet. Fruit fell from trees to the ground scorched on the windward side; all vegetable gardens were ruined. A fisherman in a rowboat made it to the Goleta Sandspit with his face and arms blistered as if he had been exposed to a blast furnace."[3] Also according to Tompkins, local inhabitants were saved from the heat by seeking shelter in the thick adobe walled houses that were the standard construction at the time.

However, experts contest this account. UCSB Professor Joel Michaelsen, for instance, said: “I have never found any outside source to validate Tompkins' story, and I am highly skeptical of its veracity. I don't doubt that strong hot, dry downslope winds could kick up lots of dust and produce very high temperatures - but in the 110 F - 115 F range at most. The 133 F just isn't physically reasonable, as it would require the creation of an extremely hot air mass somewhere to the northeast. Last Monday's weather was a very good strong example of the sort of conditions that would produce such a heat wave, and our temperatures topped out at least 20 degrees below Tompkins' figure. Stronger winds could have increased the heating a bit, but not nearly that much. Add to all that meteorologically-based skepticism Tompkins' well-known tendency to mix liberal doses of fiction into his 'histories,' and I think you have a strong case for discounting this one.”[4]

Meteorologist Christopher C. Burt wrote about the alleged incident: "There is no record of who made this measurement or exactly where it was made in Santa Barbara. Some later sources say it was made on a U.S. coastal geo-survey vessel. If that is the case then the temperature is not possible since the waters off Santa Barbara in June are never warmer than about 70°F and any wind blowing over the ocean would have its temperature modified by the cool water no matter how hot the air. This report is singular and there is physical evidence (burnt crops and dead animals) that something amazing happened here this day, but the temperature record is impossible to validate."[5]

Other Languages
العربية: سموم (رياح)
azərbaycanca: Səmum
català: Samum
Deutsch: Samum (Wind)
eesti: Samuum
español: Simún
Esperanto: Samumo
euskara: Simun
français: Simoun
italiano: Simun
ქართული: სამუმი
kaszëbsczi: Samùm
қазақша: Самум
lietuvių: Samumas
magyar: Számum
македонски: Самум
Nederlands: Samoem
日本語: シムーン
norsk nynorsk: Samum
polski: Samum
português: Simum
русский: Самум
slovenščina: Samum
српски / srpski: Самум
suomi: Samum
українська: Самум
中文: 萨姆风