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Tuesday, October 23, 2007
JPL Climatologist Bill Patzert Talks about the Real Causes of the Santa Ana Fires

Wild Santa Ana winds some of them reaching hurricane force—have been whipping through Southern California since early Sunday, October 21, triggering massive wildfires.  Although this is the start of the area’s typical Santa Ana season, these winds have lasted longer than usual and have wreaked havoc because the area is in the midst of a lengthy drought.  NASA Earth-observing satellites monitor our planet’s climate patterns.  Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., says the drought is intensified by a climate pattern called La Nina—a pool of cool water in the Pacific near the equator that steers the jet stream to the north.

Cut 1- JPL Climatologist Bill Patzert explains where the wild Santa Ana winds originated that have been plaguing southern California and fueling the fires.
Running time: :30 Play audio
“Beginning this past Sunday, a great high pressure system, quite intense and quite deep, formed to the north of us and settled into the Great Basin, what is really known as Nevada. And the great clockwise circulation sent very intense winds spinning off the high desert through the great mountain passes of Southern California. As those winds dropped into the basin, the air compressed, it dried out, it heated up and it speeded up.”

Cut 2 - Bill Patzert says this is just the beginning of Santa Ana Season.
Running time: :18 Play audio
“Santa Anas are a winter phenomenon, and they often peak in December or January and so we’re just at the beginning here and unfortunately we’ve seen an exceptionally dry 18 months in Southern California so we’re super-duper fueled up.”

Cut 3 Bill Patzert says the California drought is linked to a climate pattern called La Nina, in which a cool pool of water lingers near the equator. 
Running time: :12 Play audio
“La Nina I often call ‘The Demon Diva of Drought.’” Eight out of 10 years when the La Nina is present in the Pacific are dry winters in Southern California.”

Posted on 10/23 at 04:49 PM
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