There are not many disadvantages to living in the Pyrénées-Orientales but the heavy winds that sometimes batter the region are worth knowing about. Three regional winds are the Tramontane, the Marin and the Sirocco.
According to the dictionary, the word tramontane used as an adjective means ’on or coming from the other side of the mountains’ (as opposed to ‘cismontane’ which means on ‘this side’ of the mountains) or ’coming from another country’. Tramontana is the Catalan version of the word which is used interchangeably with the French in the P-O.
This cold and often violent wind blows across the region from the north west and can last for several days or more . The locals talk about winds of 3, 6 or 9 days. It is comparable to the ’Mistral’ but slightly less violent and can cause heavy rain depending on other meteorological conditions.
It also causes beautiful lenticular (layered) cloud formations such as this sunset on a windy day.
An old law passed by Napoleon excused “crimes of passion” committed when the Mistral had been blowing for over three days, and the Tramontane is also known as a fõhn wind (one with psychological effects). If you have spent time in the Pyrénées-Orientales during several days of Tramontane, it is easy to understand how nerves get frayed !
Meaning ’coming from the sea’, this wind is a warm marine wind blowing inland from the Mediterranean (south-east) and often brings with it low cloud and mist, and a humid atmosphere.
The Sirocco is a southern wind bringing hot dry air from Africa. This wind is quite rare in the region but when it blows, it leaves everything covered in a layer of fine red sand – a souvenir from the Sahara desert !