Publication Details

Synoptic-scale and mesoscale environments conducive to forest fires during the October 2003 extreme fire event in Southern California

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Huang, Chenjie; Lin, Y.L.; Kaplan, M.L.; Charney, Joseph J.J.

Year Published

2009

Publication

Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 48: 553-579.

Abstract

This study has employed both observational data and numerical simulation results to diagnose the synoptic-scale and mesoscale environments conducive to forest fires during the October 2003 extreme fire event in southern California. A three-stage process is proposed to illustrate the coupling of the synoptic-scale forcing that is evident from the observations, specifically the high pressure ridge and the upper-level jet streak, which leads to meso-α-scale subsidence in its exit region, and the mesoscale forcing that is simulated by the numerical model, specifically the wave breaking and turbulence as well as the wave-induced critical level, which leads to severe downslope (Santa Ana) winds. Two surges of dry air were found to reach the surface in southern California as revealed in the numerical simulation. The first dry air surge arrived as a result of moisture divergence and isallobaric adjustments behind a surface cold front. The second dry air surge reached southern California as the meso-α- to meso-β-scale subsidence and the wave-induced critical level over the coastal ranges phased to transport the dry air from the upper-level jet streak exit region toward the surface and mix the dry air down to the planetary boundary layer on the lee side of the coastal ranges in southern California. The wave-breaking region on the lee side acted as an internal boundary to reflect the mountain wave energy back to the ground and created severe downslope winds through partial resonance with the upward-propagating mountain waves.

Citation

Huang, Chenjie; Lin, Y.-L.; Kaplan, M.L.; Charney, J.J. 2009. Synoptic-scale and mesoscale environments conducive to forest fires during the October 2003 extreme fire event in Southern California. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 48: 553-579. https://doi.org/10.1175/2008JAMC1818.1.

Last updated on: September 20, 2011