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Wind experiments underway to learn more about Sundowners in the mountain passes

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Special wind experiments are underway in the Santa Barbara County foothills to help researchers learn more about the unique sundowner winds that squeeze through the coastal passes under certain conditions.

They are known for generating high speed gusts and rapidly rising temperatures.

Those winds are back in the current forecast.

UC Santa Barbara Professor Leila Carvalho says the project is called the Sundowner Winds Experiment (SWEX) .

It is done in partnership with the National Weather Service (LA/Oxnard office) and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

This is the time when the winds are most likely to occur.

"The peak season for sundowners is spring so we are going to try to do a few events between April first and May 15th,"  said Carvalho.

The team is using several sophisticated instruments in the area to measure winds and other atmospheric variables. There will also be an aircraft doing measurements during sundowners.

Funding has come to the researchers in part from the National Science Foundation.

"The whole experiment has been planning for four years, right but because of COVID we have been delayed for two years," said UCSB Professor Charles Jones.

Mobile measurements will be taken with equipment including weather balloons launching from 4 locations.

One of the balloons went up from the lower part of San Marcos Pass on the County Fire headquarters property. As Carvalho released the balloon and watched it going skyward she said, "it is changing with the direction of the wind as it moves a little up it starts going a little south.  It is collecting information about the temperature and the winds and the humidity as it moves up."

The data will be compared with other regional readings and in collaboration with weather forecasters.

Other sites for testing are in Gaviota, Rancho Allegria off San Marcos Pass and the Sedgewick property in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Funding has come in part from the National Science Foundation.

Some of the equipment will gather data on wind speed, temperature, pressure, ground radiation, and other factors that affect the atmospheric conditions.

Using the balloons the readings can be taken at different elevations in real time.

 
"The main goal is to improve the forecast and increase the resilience to wildfires especially," said Jones.

For more information go to : UCSB field projects


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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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