The latest issue of the Monthly Weather Review (March 2015) contains the first tornado climatology for Romania. Our aim in developing this climatology was not only to show that tornadoes do occur in Romania, but also to contribute to the climatology of tornadoes in Europe by providing the spatial and temporal distribution of tornadoes over a region in Eastern Europe. In my previous post - Tornadoes in Romania: From dragons to radars, in which I have tried to tell the story behind this climatology - I haven't explained why I have included the dragon in the title. I am going to provide an explanation in this post.
The first tornado report in Romania is from the beginning of the nineteenth century, from a period that coincides with the development of national and regional newspaper-type publications (e.g., the first Romanian newspapers, Albina Românească and Curierul Românesc, were first published in 1829) and also with the emergence of organized meteorological observations (e.g., the Prince Nicolae Şuţu included in his "Notiţii Statistice asupra Moldovei" (Statistical notes about Moldova) observations made between 1839–1840 at Iaşi). Obviously tornadoes were observed in Romania before the nineteenth century, but without any written reports these observations were lost. One way to recover these observations is based on folklore sources. Since tornadoes have a high impact on human communities, then they must have been represented in the Romanian folk mythology. In the paper we conjecture that in the Romanian folk mythology tornadoes are related to the figure of the dragon (balaur in Romanian) and the sorcerer (solomonar in Romanian). Andrei Oişteanu in his book "Ordine si Haos" (Order and Chaos, 2013) showed that for the folk mentality, the dragon is the Principal of Disorder, which disturbs the order of nature and human communities by bringing thunderstorms and hail. The solomonar, the Principle of Order, is a sorcerer that has the power to control the weather elements and to subdue the dragon.
The description of the dragons in the folklore sources varies from one region to another, but with some common characteristics. Thus, the dragon has a long tail “swinging when it is up into the cloud” (representing the funnel cloud) and “slapping with a loud noise when it is touching the ground” (representing the tornado itself); the dragon’s head is either the head of a crocodile or the head of a horse (representing the anvil of the cumulonimbus cloud); the dragon’s breath “is so cold that [it] is freezing the water in the clouds” thus producing large hail (sometimes associated with tornadic events); the dragon is also able to “lift people up into the clouds”.
Thus, we argue that tornadoes were not unknown events in Romania before the nineteenth century, as shown by the geographical distribution of the folklore sources in which the tornadoes are mentioned as dragons. For southeastern Romania, a region were a large number of tornadoes are reported in the recent period, no folklore sources could be identified in which tornadoes are represented as dragons.
(It is interesting to note that this collection of short stories was listed as a compulsory reading for high school students during a period in which was considered that tornadoes do not occur in Romania.)