In Southern California, the Santa Ana winds are famous for their role in spreading large wildfires during the fall/winter season. Combined with Southern California's complex topography, Santa Anas create challenges for modeling wind-fire relationships in this region. Here, we assess heterogeneity of winds during Santa Ana and non-Santa Ana days, on days with and without large-fire ignitions, across a modern high-density observational network of 30 meteorological stations. Wind speeds on Santa Ana days with a large fire ignition (mean windspeed = 5.19 m/s) are significantly higher than on Santa Ana days without large fire ignitions (3.96 m/s), while on non-Santa Ana days winds are generally weaker, during both fire (2.30 m/s) and non-fire (2.38 m/s) days. Hierarchical clustering of meteorological stations during both Santa Ana and non-Santa Ana days reveals groups of stations with consistently similar wind speed and directions. All stations clearly exhibit high wind speeds on Santa Ana days, and most record contrasting wind characteristics during Santa Ana versus non-Santa Ana ignitions. Additionally, our analysis revealed that key geographic siting traits are not represented in the network, including few stations with northwest aspect and upper slope in the southern mountains.
Dye, Alex W.; Kim, John B.; Riley, Karin L. 2020. Spatial heterogeneity of winds during Santa Ana and non-Santa Ana wildfires in Southern California with implications for fire risk modeling. Heliyon. 6(6): e04159-. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04159.