Waves of Smoke and Fiery Sunset

October 24, 2006

Malibu_fire_1983 copy

Provided and copyright by: David Lynch
Summary authors & editors: David Lynch

When the Santa Ana Winds start blowing in Southern California, brush fires are on everyone’s mind. These hot, dry winds result from a high pressure system in the high desert that sends surface winds out in all directions. When the winds flows to lower altitudes, like coastal Los Angeles, the air is heated by compression and the relative humidity plummets. Grass and brush dry out and stand as ready tender for any spark. And if a fire starts, the Santa Anas fan the flames with winds as high as 60 mph.

In 1983 a brush fire in Malibu broke out and before spreading widely, it sent up a small narrow plume of thick smoke. When the smoke reached the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Santa Ana winds blew it out to sea over Point Dume. Coming down off the mountains the air developed waves that reached far out into the Pacific Ocean. The waves were outlined by the smoke, creating the lurid sunset above. Such waves are often present but are not visible because air is transparent. Only when a smoke tracer is injected into the sky are the waves revealed.

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