Santa Ana Winds Blow Through California


Courtesy of the Weather Channel

The map of California shows the “Santa Ana Ingredients” for the winds which include high builds in, jet stream sinking air, and strong offshore winds.

Ashley Ortega, Editor-in-Chief

You wake up on a clear morning and realize the air is dry and then your nose starts acting up. As you grab a tissue you hear the whistle of the wind outside your window and that’s when you realize the Santa Ana Winds are back. 

While the Santa Ana Winds are infamous in the United States, mentioned in TV shows like “You,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and “Southland.” It was also in the movie “The Holiday” where Jack Black romanticized the Santa Ana Winds to Kate Winslet.

But what are they and what causes them?

”Santa Ana winds are hot, dry winds that come down through the Santa Ana mountains out into the ocean,” said AP Environmental Science teacher, Jill Lytle. They can reach up to 30 miles per hour. These winds start in October and end in March, and are extremely dry because they come off the land with no moisture. 

Part of the problem when we have fires is that the firefighters are ready, but they have to cover all of Southern California”

— Science teacher Jill Lytle

The winds go by many names including “The Red Winds” and “The Devil Winds” because of their affiliation with the wildfires. Their official name, Santa Ana Winds, was brought about because they blow through the Santa Ana mountains and canyons.

For senior, Kevin Gonzalez, he said, ”They make my lips get really chapped.”

Not only can the winds cause dryness within our skin, but they also dry out vegetation. This creates problems for farmers and their crops. 

Winds in the winter and fall months are especially bad because the plants are not able to replace the water they lose due to low humidity and they dry out. The plants end up shriveling up and ultimately dying unless their water consumption increases.

The Santa Ana Winds are also a huge factor for the fire season in California. Fire season in recent years is getting longer and more severe because of the rising intensity of the fires. The low moisture, velocity, and how widespread the winds are contributing greatly to the start of the fires. 

”Part of the problem when we have fires is that the firefighters are ready, but they have to cover all of Southern California,” said Lytle. A couple of fires that were made worse from the winds were the: Getty, Kincade, and Woolsey Fires. The Woolsey Fire, which started November 8th, 2018, lasted three days and burned 1,500 structures from Oak Park to Malibu.

Courtesy of Google Images
The Woolsey Fire which started on November 8, 2018, burned 96,949 acres of land.

Fire season has always been a regular in California, but the reason why they’ve become more widespread is their severity and how long they burn which has increased significantly. The seven largest fires we’ve had in California have been in the last five years, and past fires from the 50s, 60s, and 70s have all been replaced by more recent ones. 

What people may not know is that Southern California has fire ecology, meaning that our ecosystem is supposed to burn every 20 to 50 years. Just like earthquakes, if we don’t let the ecosystem burn it will continue to build up until it does, and because we live in these areas we don’t let the Earth burn as it should. So we keep getting massive fires that burn for a long time instead of small ones that burn out quickly.

“It makes sense that the winds would help increase fires because they’re basically causing the spark with how dry they are,” said senior, Joselyn Bernal. 

The winds usually die down in March, but Californians still fear the worse when it comes to the destruction they can cause.