Pampero

picture Location: Argentina, Uruguay

Pampero is the name for a severe line squall that occurs over the Pampas of Argentina and Uruguay. A pampero event marks the passage of a cold front and often brings a considerable drop in temperature. The Pampero is usually accompanied by very humid and close conditions, severe rain, hail and thunderstorms and is followed by a cold, dry, gusty, southerly or south-westerly wind. The first phase is called the Pampero Húmedo (the humid pampero) and the second phase is known as the Pampero Seco (the dry pampero), usually turning into a dust storm the Pampero Sucio. Although the Pampero might occur at any time of the year, it is usually strongest during S hemispheric early summer, between October and January. A good example for a severe Pampero happened between 20st and 22nd of October, 2002.


picture The term pampero itself was introduced by Spanish colonizadores of the Rio de la Plata area. The Spanish colonists were battered by a strong, dry, cold and blustery wind coming from the interior of the continent, the Pampas (prairies) of Argentina. However, the pampero effects are turning milder and less vigorous towards the north.


Synoptically the pampero is caused by a low situated above Patagonia or the Falkland Islands. Coming from the S Pacific the cold front of this depression has to pass the southern Andes losing much of its moisture on the western flanks of the mountain range. The relatively dry and cold air mass clashes into the northerly warm and humid air situated across the Argentine plains north of Patagonia. The situation is very similar to the Great Plains of North America. The cold, dry upper level air and the warm and moist air near the ground eventually trigger a line of supercell thunderstorms, some 50 to 200 km (50 to 150 mi) ahead and parallel of the cold front - the squall line known as Pampero. And yes, even tornadoes are known to occur. The Pampero is usually followed by the warm Zondawind


The Pampero phenomenon did even find its way into the world literature. In 1868 Jules Verne described the Pampero in his novel 'In Search of the Castaways' much better and more fascinating than we meteorologists can do:

Next day, the 22nd of October, at eight o'clock in the morning    [...]    Toward noon, however, the sun's rays were extremely scorching, and when evening came, a bar of clouds streaked the southwest horizon - a sure sign of a change in the weather. The Patagonian pointed it out to the geographer, who replied:

'Yes, I know;' and turning to his companions, added, 'see, a change of weather is coming! We are going to have a taste of PAMPERO.' And he went on to explain that this PAMPERO is very common in the Argentine plains. It is an extremely dry wind which blows from the southwest.    [...]    The PAMPERO generally brings a tempest which lasts three days, and may be always foretold by the depression of the mercury, 'he said. 'But when the barometer rises, on the contrary, which is the case now, all we need expect is a few violent blasts. So you can make your mind easy, my good friend; by sunrise the sky will be quite clear again.'


Jules Verne, 1868: In Search of the Castaways. CHAPTER XVI: THE NEWS OF THE LOST CAPTAIN.