Why is the foehn called the “Wicked Wind”?

The foehn is a warm, dry airflow that sweeps down the northern side of the Alps, usually during early winter or spring. The foehn is sometimes called the “wicked wind” because of the ill effects it often has on people in Switzerland and southern Germany.

This wind results from differing air pressures on the northern and southern sides of the Alps. Air rises along the southern slopes of the mountains, depositing its moisture as it travels, and then sweeps down the northern slopes as a very dry wind.

During periods when the foehn is blowing, people in the region frequently report dizziness, nausea, and depression. Accidents and crime increase. Animals too are affected, and cows sometimes stop giving milk.

Some scientists believe that the foehn’s ill effects are due to its influence on electricity in the air. Changes in the electrical balance of the atmosphere can disturb living things. There is no “cure” for the foehn, but medicines are sold that supposedly ward off the wicked wind’s effects!