P71221+They have been a part of life in Southern California longer than anyone can remember. The Santa Ana Winds have been blowing down from the high deserts to coastal plains long before people arrived in the region. They are arid and usually warm before they leave the Great Basin and Mojave Desert, and they get even warmer as the flow downhill through mountain passes. That is what makes them so dangerous during fire season. Wind alone accelerates wildfire. Warming arid wind desiccates fuel, making it more combustible before wildfire arrives.

Santa Ana Winds are so regular that they affect how tall trees grow within the regions of the mountain passes where Santa Ana Winds move the fastest. Tall Mexican fan palms that grew up straight where sheltered from wind near the ground innately lean with the prevailing wind as they grow up and become more exposed. Those closer to the narrow canyons lean the most. It is something that arborists recognize everywhere around the Los Angeles Basin. They can tell how strongly the Santa Ana Winds blow in any particular neighborhood by how Mexican fan palms lean.

Santa Ana Winds can be strong enough to break tree limbs, and blow trees down. In the past few days, they have been making quite a mess in the Los Angeles region; although not as much of a mess as they are making in conjunction with the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, which may already be the biggest wildfire in the modern history of California.

Overnight, Santa Ana Winds blew this California pepper tree onto a swimming pool in Los Angeles. Tree services, landscapers, gardeners and those who enjoy gardening will be busy cleaning up such problems for the next few days, as Santa Ana Winds continue.

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9 thoughts on “Santa Ana Winds

  1. A good commentary on our Santa Ana (or Santana) winds! In past years, until about 10 years ago, we would have two or three days of winds in the fall, accompanied by wildfires, and that would be it. This year we have had one stretch after another of serious winds, the last one lasting 18 plus days and driving the Thomas Fire. The fire is not quite the largest yet, but it only has about 1,000 acres to go, and they anticipate it burning for another 2 weeks or so. I saw one description that showed an “omega curve” between high and low air pressures that did not move eastward as they normally would — one causing the heat waves we had this fall and another causing the winds of the last couple of weeks. The climate is definitely changing!

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  2. We were getting dry offshore winds here too, but it is not the same, and they do not last long enough to dry everything out. Our fire danger continues to fluctuate with the humidity.

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    1. How funny. Many people who are not familiar with it think that the Mojave Desert is a dreadful place, and that Santa Ana and Orange County is only urban sprawl. I would like to get to the Mojave Desert more often, but I rarely have an excuse to go. Lancaster is getting to be a big city now, which is not much fun. The desert is so scenic, but does not have a nice climate to live in. It is difficult to appreciate the scenery from inside a big city, but impossible to get away from the unpleasant summer weather. I am glad I saw it in the 1980s, but now I would avoid Lancaster. The surroundings are still quite empty.

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  3. We’ve just had a few days of hot drying winds coming from the desert regions north west, not at all pleasant, usually we get the cooler moist winds from the east and across the ocean. Yes climate is definitely changing.

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