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WEATHER U: Our wind woes don’t even compare

A fire burns in this undated stock image.
A fire burns in this undated stock image. Strong winds recently caused an elevated wildfire risk in parts of California. - 123RF Stock Photo

In Wednesday’s Weather University I explained how fire devils were spotted in the deadly southern California wildfires; I also mentioned the Santa Ana winds – winds that continue to fuel the flames on the other side of the continent.

Much like our Suetes Winds in Inverness County and the Wreckhouse Winds in southwestern Newfoundland, the Santa Anas are katabatic winds; katabatic is Greek for “flowing downhill.”  These winds are funnelled to higher altitudes before racing down towards sea level.  Santa Ana winds originate from high-pressure air masses over the Great Basin and upper Mojave Desert.  At night, as the desert cools, the Santa Ana Winds merge with the land breeze blowing from land to sea, and strengthen.  

Earlier this week, the dry Santa Ana winds took an unusual path through San Diego County, causing the offshore flow to roar down the western slopes of mountains with unusual force and speed, elevating the wildfire danger in a region where the soil is parched.  Winds gusts were clocked at 85 miles per hour – that’s 137 km/h.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those having to deal with such unimaginable devastation.  It’s been very windy here, but rather than fuelling firestorms, our driving wind is streaming snow squalls.

In context, not that much of a hardship after all.

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