Tarifa Wind and Weather Phenomena
The Tarifa wind is famous across the world. Tarifa’s situation on the Strait of Gibraltar at the meeting of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean blesses our town with some of the world’s most powerful and consistent wind effects. This happy accident of geography creates the unique weather phenomena that have made Tarifa a global destination for kitesurfing and windsurfing. That and its friendly people, beautiful beaches and wonderful restaurants and buzzing nightlife.
Levante and Poniente | Tarifa’s dominant winds
The Levante and Poniente are the dominant winds in Tarifa. The Levante can be extremely strong in Tarifa, usually around 30 knots, but sometimes it blows for days at a time at 50 knots or more. It is an easterly wind that originates in North Africa and blows across the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Poniente is the Westerly wind blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. It tends to be less strong than the Levante, generally about 20 knots or so, but is usually much smoother and less gusty. The Levante and Poniente both blow more strongly in Tarifa than elsewhere because of the Venturi effect created by the Strait of Gibraltar.
Tarifa’s Venturi Effect
The Strait of Gibraltar tapers between Spain and Morocco. Its narrowest point is only 11 kilometres across and is framed by mountains on either side, forcing a constant volume of air through an ever smaller space. The wind speed must therefore increase to keep the same volume of air moving through the smaller space. Tarifa sits directly in the venturi´s path, creating a localised wind magnifier. This creates a strong inflow venturi effect when the Poniente is blowing and an even stronger outflow effect when the Levante is the prevailing wind.
Thermal wind at Valdevaqueros
There are localised thermal effects in Tarifa, most notably at Valdevaqueros on a sunny day. Thermal wind is caused by the sun heating the land and the hot air over the land rising, causing the cooler ocean air to race in and fill the gap. This means thermal winds usually blow onshore which is ideal if you want to learn how to kitesurf. This is particularly important for beginners kitesurfing lessons as it means any beginner who loses control of the kite will be blown back in to shore rather than out to sea.
Less common winds in Tarifa
In winter the prevailing wind is the Sea Breeze, which generally provides good kitesurfing conditions.
The North wind is not optimal for kitesurfing in Tarifa because of the wind shadow caused by the surrounding mountains. To avoid the wind shadow effect you need to be 7 times the height of the mountain away. If you’re closer than that you’ll experience circular, gusty winds which make kitesurfing difficult and potentially dangerous. Luckily the north wind only blows for a few days a year.
See the infographic below for a visual explanation of the wind conditions in Tarifa
Tarifa live forecast
Check out the forecast for the next two weeks on Windguru