Croatia / Science / Travel

A Poltergeist in Dubrovnik

Tower

Hats are snatched, laundry is ripped off the line, and flags flap and pop. There’s a poltergeist behind these deeds, and it’s the incessant wind which blew 24/7 for much of our time in Dubrovnik.

Laundry

These constant 20-25 mph winds seemed strange to me, so I investigated a bit, and what I found may surprise you weather watchers out there. Coastal Croatia and this part of the Adriatic has katabatic winds called Bura. I had heard of these chilly winds in Antarctica, but certainly didn’t expect them on the sunny Adriatic.

Wall

Katabatic winds originate at high altitudes to the east of Dubrovnik, and carry cold, high density air downhill in response to gravity. And because they flow like water down the mountain slopes,  they are also called “drainage winds.” Bura wind speeds can be quite high, and in fact, can reach hurricane strength! This makes me wonder how the nude sunbathers react on Lokrum Island about a half mile offshore.

Laundry 2

Dubrovnik’s wind can turn a warm, sunny day into a blustery, cold struggle to stay warm. Because the temperature of the wind decreases at night, the windspeed increases and the gusts get worse. Thanks to the poltergeist, our apartment windows rattled constantly every night.

Window

I’m sure that the residents and tourists welcome the relief in summer, but by the end of our stay, I needed a break. Having said that, my inner geek is happy to have experienced a real katabatic wind without making a trip to Antarctica.

Happy Trails,
James

P.S. Recently, we heard from one of our readers in Dubrovnik, Dubrovniklady, and she says – “Today we are experiencing the ‘Bura’ winds, sunny but so cold!”

flag

25 thoughts on “A Poltergeist in Dubrovnik

    • You’ll be a Bura expert after a year in Croatia. Check out the comments from “Dubrovniklady” ( a resident) for a preview of what to expect. Did you know about the summer Jugo? ~James

    • Thanks for the info Jo. You brought up a term that sent me to google. It appears that the Meltemi is slightly different than the Bura. We lived in Oregon on the NW US coast for a while. In summer, a high pressure system (like a Meltimi) sets up offshore, and it is windy much of the time. And thanks to you, now I know what to call it. My inner weather geek thanks you. ~James

    • Thanks Juliann. These winds were definitely in the chilly category, particularly at night. When planning clothing for the day, a few layers needed to be in the backpack. ~James

  1. Although this looks like a lovely place to visit, wind is something that will wear me out after a few days. I have never heard of these type of winds either.

    • As a cyclist, jogger, and cold weather wimp, I’m no great fan of wind myself. The weather in Dubrovnik taught me very quickly to make sure that I had layers to put on and peel off. However, it really is a cool place. ~James

  2. Your story evoked memories of Boquete, Panama. We knew the rainy season was over when the winds blew steadily just as you describe in Dubrovnik (although I doubt the winds of Panama are katabatic). Fair warning, I guess, as we plan to visit and perhaps live in Croatia next year after 6 months in Spain. Informative post and Great Photos! – Mike

    • Thanks Mike. For us in Mid October, the wind was chilly. Usually, if I could get on the lee side of a wall or building it wasn’t too bad. But if the sun disappeared, and I walked into the teeth of the breeze, it sent me grabbing for my jacket zipper. Dubrovnik, and the region in general are very cool, so you’ll have a good time. BTW, the border with Bosnia is only a 75 mile bus ride. We visited Mostar, and it was really interesting. Check out our post. https://gallivance.net/2011/10/21/mostar-bosnia-a-coin-with-two-faces/
      ~James

  3. Very intersting – when I was there a few years ago, I didn’t notice an icy or a cold wind. All the 2 weeks we found it hot and nearly windless. Maybe it’s bura time only during certain seasons. We were there in July/August

    • Thanks Solaner. Check out the comment from Dubrovniklady (a resident) for the details of the Bura schedule. When we visited in mid October, the wind wasn’t frigid, but it was definitely chilly. ~James

  4. That must get uncomfortable over time–I wonder if there are local superstitions abut the wind’s properties and what it does to a person’s mood. Still, how fun to get a small taste of Antarctica without all the snow!

    • Unless there’s a very strong wind, I don’t normally think much about it. However, when it blows day and night for days, I suspected something had to be up. However, as a weather geek, it was pretty cool. You know, another personal meteorological observation. ~James

  5. It is believed here that once we experience 3 Bura winds in March, winter is finally over. This wind does not normally occur during our summer months, only occasionally. However we do have Jugo, the summer wind from Africa, which is hot, hot, hot. I found it fascinating that the winds here are named. Bura is from the north, Jugo from Africa and Majestral from Rijeka.

    • Thanks for the additional details Carol. As a resident, you obviously have the straight dope. We were there in mid-October, and it was windy much of the time. I hadn’t heard of the Jugo, and I can imagine how hot it is. So it sounds like you get cold winds when you don’t need them, and hot winds when you don’t need them. Huuummm? Mother Nature up to her old tricks. ~James

  6. Winds here in Girona as well, and just as reliable. Today the wind blew Louise’s favorite shirt off the line. We’re six stories up and she can see the shirt on the neighbor’s roof. Last I saw her, she was headed for the sporting goods store for a cheap fishing rod and some line…

    • Bummer Tom. I have a couple of ideas if the fishing rod strategy doesn’t pan out. First, a rope with knots tied on to your balcony railing (rock, paper, string for who shimmies down) or if that isn’t workable, Louise can learn the Catalan words for “My shirt is on your roof. Do you own a ladder?” Let me know how it goes. ~James

  7. Loved learning about the Bura and Jugo legends while in Hrvatska, and picked up a few more tidbits from this fun write-up. We experienced those blustery Bura during our sailing excursion. They sound as though they can be really vicious during the winter months.

    • We were in Dubrovnik in October, and it was windy most of the time. The biggest nuisance for us, was at night. Our funky little apartment was on the 4th floor of a really old building, and the windows rattled all night. A big gust would hit the window, and the lock would clatter just loud enough to wake me up. ~James

  8. I had commented back in April, but now your story means more to me having experienced the Bura for myself. Still, katabatic winds take the geek award. I had only experienced adiabatic winds from my time in the Pacific Northwest. I would like to think that qualifies me for at least minor geekdom. 🙂 – Mike

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