Living in Innsbruck has its definite advantages, let me tell you. In a short amount of time you can be in a number of other countries, you have the gorgeous mountains, nature at your fingertips, and don’t even get me started on all the outdoor sports you can do in and around Innsbruck! This region is an absolute paradise… but every rose has its thorn, and in my opinion the foehn wind, which gusts through the city every now and then, is the biggest thorn. But don’t get scared off, it’s not all the time!
Innsbruck the (Sometimes) Windy City
I don’t mind most weather: sun, rain, snow, whatever comes there is always some way to enjoy even the roughest weather. April showers bring May flowers, there’s the magical way snow glistens when the sun comes back, and who doesn’t enjoy a sunny day… But let’s be real here folks, foehn wind just brings headaches and is excessive! We are not alone in this problem – other countries, regions and towns experience this as well – but somehow the foehn of Innsbruck feels unique.
So here is a crash course, for those of you who have never heard this term before. Foehn wind is caused by the subsidence of moist air after passing a high mountain. More simply put, when mountains force the air up and then back down the other side of the mountain it transports heat with it and takes the moisture out of the air, resulting in warm dry air coming down into the Inn valley. Given that Innsbruck is in a valley between mountains to both the north and the south, we are especially susceptible to the wind gusting over the mountains. It is crazy to think what effect a little wind can have, but foehn winds can raise temperatures by as much as 14 °C (25 °F) in just a matter of minutes!
Not for the faint of heart
You may be thinking at this point, is she really going to write an entire article about wind… It’s just wind. But this wind is no joke; it can impact everyday life. When I first arrived in Innsbruck and experienced foehn for the first time I was pretty sceptical of its effects. I would hear people cancel plans because of foehn, or call in sick to work because of it… To which, I thought, come on guys… It’s wind, what a lame excuse! But after almost a decade of living here, I no longer see it as just an urban myth. In the last few weeks I have definitely felt the effects of foehn: headaches, dizziness… It’s real. Apparently, everyone feels and experiences it a bit differently. The results from research have varied and there is apparently no definitive evidence that the wind really causes any good or bad side effects; but even if it is just a placebo effect, the wind still is having an effect. Thank goodness it’s only a small percentage of days every year!
The high speed winds from foehn can even have an effect on travel. Only a short time ago while diving on the highway there were illuminated signs warning of high winds on the Europa Bridge. Drivers should use caution as a steering wheel can get wobbly at times, so it’s best to stay vigilant.
Even pilots have to watch the weather and mind the days with foehn. To be a pilot who flies into or out of the Innsbruck airport you need a special license – in order to safely navigate the steep ascent/descent through the mountains and deal with any gusty winds. But don’t worry – I’ve never had a problem flying into town, and we have a fantastic airport that’s (rather intelligently!) placed in a spot sheltered from most winds.
Every rose has it’s thorn, and wind seems like an acceptable price to pay to live in paradise, am I right?! But thank goodness for the usually nice weather!
Article photos are from innsbruck.info
Cover photo : @Tribune Star
Foehn Diagram : @Wikipedia