La Monarca Vol 4 FINAL - Page 5

Photo courtesy of Janin Guzmán-Morales
Janin Guzmán-Morales
UC San Diego 6th year doctoral candidate
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Advisor: Alexander “Sasha” Gershunov (pictured)
Bachelor’s degree: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
e w weather forecasts strike fear into the hearts
of Southern Californians like a prediction of
intense Santa Ana winds. The Santa Anas, as they are
commonly known, are associated with nearly all of the
most destructive wildfires of the last 50 years. Their
journey begins above the Great Basin as dry air gets
sucked westward—a reversal of the typical eastward
flow of moist ocean air over coastal California. This
dry desert air warms and picks up speed as it descends
into the Los Angeles Basin. The velocity, temperature
and low humidity of the air are a volatile mix, and
fires that are ignited in the dry chaparral of Southern
California’s mountains and canyons can be whipped
into uncontrollable conflagrations.
However, for Janin Guzmán-Morales, a 6th
year doctoral student at Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, these winds represent more than death
and destruction. They represent a great intellectual
challenge. On a typical day, she studies enormous
datasets of modeled wind speed and direction, hoping
to gain insight into how often Santa Ana winds occur
and whether their frequency, duration and intensity
are connected to natural climate variability modes such
as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Such
information can provide valuable advance warning to
fire agencies, resource managers and landowners.
To date, her 65-year dataset is the most extensive
record available. She has already found fascinating
links such as an association between Santa Ana winds
and climate. This research, highlighted on National
Public Radio and other media outlets, has shown that
the Santa Anas increase during strong El Niño events
Continues on page 17

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