Simoom

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Simoom (Arabic : سمومsamūm; from the root س م مs-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).

Sahara desert in Africa

The Sahara is a desert located on the African continent. It is the largest hot desert in the world, and the third largest desert overall after Antarctica and the Arctic. Its area of 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi) is comparable to the area of China or the United States. The name 'Sahara' is derived from a dialectal Arabic word for "desert", ṣaḥra.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, officially the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.

Jordan Arab country in Western Asia

Jordan, officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab country in Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and Israel and Palestine to the west. The Dead Sea is located along its western borders and the country has a small coastline to the Red Sea in its extreme south-west, but is otherwise landlocked. Jordan is strategically located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe. The capital, Amman, is Jordan's most populous city as well as the country's economic, political and cultural centre.

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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.

Heat stroke condition caused by exposure to the sun

Heat stroke, also known as sun stroke, is a type of severe heat illness that results in a body temperature greater than 40.0 °C (104.0 °F) and confusion. Other symptoms include red, dry or damp skin, headache, and dizziness. Onset can be sudden or gradual. Complications may include seizures, rhabdomyolysis, or kidney failure.

Evaporation Type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs from its surface; surface phenomenon

Evaporation is a type of vaporization that occurs on the surface of a liquid as it changes into the gas phase. The surrounding gas must not be saturated with the evaporating substance. When the molecules of the liquid collide, they transfer energy to each other based on how they collide with each other. When a molecule near the surface absorbs enough energy to overcome the vapor pressure, it will escape and enter the surrounding air as a gas. When evaporation occurs, the energy removed from the vaporized liquid will reduce the temperature of the liquid, resulting in evaporative cooling.

Hyperthermia elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates

Hyperthermia is a condition where an individual's body temperature is elevated beyond normal due to failed thermoregulation. The person's body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. When extreme temperature elevation occurs, it becomes a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment to prevent disability or death.

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]

Cyclone large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low pressure

In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale. Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale. Mesocyclones, tornadoes and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars and Neptune. Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones begin as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract and form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, extratropical cyclones occlude as cold air masses undercut the warmer air and become cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the subtropical jet stream.

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]

Khamsin dry, hot, sandy local wind, blowing from the south, in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula

Khamsin, chamsin or hamsin, more commonly known in Egypt as khamaseen, is a dry, hot, sandy local wind affecting Egypt; similar winds, blowing in other parts of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the entire Mediterranean basin, have different local names, such as bad-i-sad-o-bist roz in Iran and Afghanistan, haboob in the Sudan, aajej in southern Morocco, ghibli in Tunis, harmattan in the western Maghreb, africo in Italy, sirocco which blows in winter over much of the Middle East, and simoom.

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.

Goleta, California City in California in the United States

Goleta is a city in southern Santa Barbara County, California, USA. It was incorporated as a city in 2002, after a long period as the largest unincorporated populated area in the county. As of the 2000 census, the census-designated place had a total population of 55,204; however, a significant portion of the census territory of 2000 did not incorporate into the new city. The population was 29,888 at the 2010 census. It is known for being near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus, although the CDP of Isla Vista is closer to the campus.

Santa Barbara, California City in California, United States

Santa Barbara is the county seat of Santa Barbara County in the U.S. state of California. Situated on a south-facing section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara's climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city has been promoted as the "American Riviera". As of 2014, the city had an estimated population of 91,196, up from 88,410 in 2010, making it the second most populous city in the county after Santa Maria. The contiguous urban area, which includes the cities of Goleta and Carpinteria, along with the unincorporated regions of Isla Vista, Montecito, Mission Canyon, Hope Ranch, Summerland, and others, has an approximate population of 220,000. The population of the entire county in 2010 was 423,895.

Santa Ynez Mountains mountain range in Southern California

The Santa Ynez Mountains are a portion of the Transverse Ranges, part of the Pacific Coast Ranges of the west coast of North America. It is the westernmost range in the Transverse Ranges.

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]

Figurative use of the word or phenomenon

Edgar Allan Poe's short story "MS. Found in a Bottle" (1833) features a storm off the coast of Java, wherein "every appearance warranted me [the protagonist-narrator] in apprehending a Simoom."

In the political essay "Chartism", Thomas Carlyle argues that even the poorest of men who have resigned themselves to misery and toil cannot resign themselves to injustice because they retain an innate sense that a higher (divine) justice must govern the world: "Force itself, the hopelessness of resistance, has doubtless a composing effect against inanimate Simooms, and much other infliction of the like sort, we have found it suffice to produce complete composure. Yet one would say a permanent Injustice even from an Infinite Power would prove unendurable by men."

Walden (1854), by Henry David Thoreau, references a simoom; he uses it to describe his urge to escape something most unwanted. "There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me—some of its virus mingled with my blood. No—in this case I would rather suffer evil the natural way."

In his 1854 novel Hard Times , Charles Dickens in describing the oppressive midsummer heat of the sooty, smoky factories of Coketown, writes, "The atmosphere of those Fairy palaces was like the breath of the simoom; and their inhabitants, wasting with heat, toiled languidly in the desert" (book 2, chapter 1). In American Notes Dickens also describes "that injurious [political] Party Spirit" as "the Simoom of America, sickening and blighting everything of wholesome life within its reach." (p. 93 in the 1913 Chapman & Hall, Ltd. edition, online from Project Gutenberg).

In Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897), Lucy, describing the appearance of Dracula in her room, writes in her journal entry on September 17 that "a whole myriad of little specks seemed to come blowing in through the broken window, and wheeling and circling round like the pillar of dust that travellers describe when there is a simoom in the desert."

In James Joyce's novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914), there is a reference to "Stephen's heart [withering] up like a flower of the desert that feels the simoom coming from afar."

In Sinclair Lewis' novel Main Street (1920), there is a reference to "Aunt Bessie's simoom of questioning."

In keeping with its tradition of naming its aircraft engines after winds, the Wright Aeronautical R-1200 of 1925 was called the Simoon.

A simoon strikes during chapter 2 of the film serial Tarzan the Tiger (1929).

In Making a President (1932), H. L. Mencken refers to "a veritable simoon of hiccups."

In Patrick O'Brian's novel Post Captain (1972), Diana Villiers' mentally troubled cousin, Edward Lowndes, upon learning that Doctor Maturin is a naval surgeon, remarks, "Very good—you are upon the sea but not in it: you are not an advocate for cold baths. The sea, the sea! Where should we be without it? Frizzled to a mere toast, sir; parched, desiccated by the simoom, the dread simoom."

A song titled "Simoon" features on the Yellow Magic Orchestra's eponymously titled album that was released in 1978. Also, The Creatures have a song called "Simoom" on their 1989 album Boomerang .

In the film The English Patient (1996) there is a scene in which Count László Almásy regales Katharine Clifton with histories of named winds, one of them being the "Simoon." Alluding to the records of Herodotus, Almásy tells Katharine that there was once a certain Arabic people who deemed the "Simoon" so evil that they marched out to meet it ranked as an army, "their swords raised."

In the collectible card game Magic: the Gathering, card named "Simoon" first appeared in the Visions expansion set on a fictional continent of Jamuraa. This card saw play in the sideboard of contemporary Type II decks and was especially effective against the popular Five Colours Green decks that heavily relied on small creatures with toughness of 1.

See also

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References

  1. Wood, James, ed. (1907). "Simoom". The Nuttall Encyclopædia . London and New York: Frederick Warne
  2. Lane, Edward William (1973 [1860]). An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. With a new introduction by John Manchip White. New York: Dover Publications. P. 2.
  3. Tompkins, Walker A. (1966). Goleta: The Good Land. Goleta Am-Vets Post No. 55, 1966; Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 66-23873. pp. 57–58.
  4. Bill Norrington, GOLETA'S "GREAT SIMOON" OF 1859, UCSB Department of Geography
  5. Christopher C. Burt, The hottest reliably measured air temperatures on Earth. Weather Underground