Skip to main content

Foehn Winds


Foehn winds are warm, dry, and strong winds that form in the lee of mountains or major hills. The distinctive characteristics of foehn winds act in combination to exacerbate fire danger levels.


Foehn winds can play a critical role in influencing fire weather in the lee of mountains or other significant topography. They form due to the foehn effect, which has been ascribed to a number of different mechanisms. Foehn winds are observed globally. The term “foehn” (or “föhn”) derives from winds in the lee of the European Alps, but numerous other names have been given to similar winds around the globe. For example, the Chinook and Santa Ana winds in North America, the bergwind of southern Africa, and the Canterbury Nor’wester in southern New Zealand are all analogues to the foehn. Foehn winds are notable in the context of fire weather because the warm, dry, and windy conditions they produce result in an increase in fire danger. Figure 1shows a wildfire burning under...

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  • Ahrens CD (2012) Meteorology today: an introduction to weather, climate, and the environment. Cengage Learning, Boston, 640 pp

    Google Scholar 

  • Elvidge AD, Renfrew IA (2016) The causes of foehn warming in the lee of mountains. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 97(3):455–466

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fox-Hughes P (2012) Springtime fire weather in Tasmania, Australia: two case studies. Weather Forecast 27:379–395

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Keeley JE (2004) Impact of antecedent climate on fire regimes in coastal California. Int J Wildland Fire 13:173–182

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lawson BD, Armitage OB (2008) Weather guide for the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System. Edmonton, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service

    Google Scholar 

  • McArthur AG (1967) Fire behaviour in Eucalyptus Forests. Department of National Development Forestry and Timber Bureau: Canberra, Leaflet 107

    Google Scholar 

  • Moritz MA, Moody TJ, Krawchuk MA, Hughes M, Hall A (2010) Spatial variation in extreme winds predicts large wildfire locations in chaparral ecosystems. Geophys Res Lett 37(4)

    Google Scholar 

  • Noble IR, Bary GAV, Gill AM (1980) McArthur’s fire-danger meters expressed as equations. Aust J Ecol 5:201–203

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ólafsson H (2005) The heat source of the foehn. Hrvatski Meteorološki Časopis 40:542–545

    Google Scholar 

  • Pearce HG, Alexander ME (1994) Fire danger ratings associated with New Zealand’s major pine plantation wildfires. In: Proceedings of 12th Conference on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Society of American Foresters, SAF Pub. 94–02, Bethesda, Jekyll Island, Georgia

    Google Scholar 

  • Raphael MN (2003) The Santa Ana winds of California. Earth Interact 7:1–13

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Seibert P (1990) South foehn studies since the ALPEX experiment. Meteorog Atmos Phys 43:91–103

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Sharples JJ, Mills GA, McRae RHD, Weber RO (2010) Foehn-like winds and elevated fire danger in southeastern Australia. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 49:1067–1095

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Simpson, C., Sturman, A., Zawar-Reza, P., Pearce, G. (2013) Fire weather of a Canterbury Northwester on 6 February 2011 in South Island, New Zealand. In: Proceedings of Bushfire CRC Research Forum, Melbourne

    Google Scholar 

  • Simpson CC, Pearce HG, Sturman AP, Zawar-Reza P (2014) Behaviour of fire weather indices in the 2009–10 New Zealand wildland fire season. Int J Wildland Fire 23:1147–1164

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Van Wagner CE (1987) Development and structure of the Canadian forest fire weather index system. Technical report 35, Canadian Forestry Service, Ottawa

    Google Scholar 

  • Whiteman CD (2000) Mountain meteorology: fundamentals and applications. Oxford University Press, New York, 355 pp

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jason J. Sharples .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2018 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this entry

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Sharples, J.J. (2018). Foehn Winds. In: Manzello, S. (eds) Encyclopedia of Wildfires and Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fires. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-51727-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-51727-8

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference EngineeringReference Module Computer Science and Engineering