Fires in Northern Mexico

Fires in Northern Mexico

19 November2005

Thick plumes of smoke wafted west over the Pacific Ocean on powerful winds on19 November 2005. The smoke was pouring from wildfires, marked with red boxes, burning just south of Tijuana, Mexico.

Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in the shrub lands of northern Baja California, particularly in the fall, when hot, dry Santa Ana winds blow from the east. The winds sweep dry air from the Sonora Desert of northern Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico out over the Pacific Ocean. The winds dry out plants, making them more prone to wildfire. Once a fire starts, the fast-blowing winds can easily fan the flames into an uncontrollable wildfire. In Baja California, such fires are often allowed to burn themselves out. To the north, in the United States, state and federal land management agencies control fires near populated areas more aggressively, stamping out the fires as quickly as possible. However, such tight control may eventually result in larger fires because dead wood, weeds, other fuels accumulate between infrequentburnings.

19 November 2005
16:40 hrs UTC

click on image for a 250 m resolution

The Santa Ana winds were blowing strongly on 19 November 2005, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Southern California, warning of warm, windy weather that would allow small fires to explode out of controlquickly. On 18 November Santa Ana winds gusting past 50 miles per hour drove a rapid-growing fire in the mountains aroundVentura, California. It is likely that similar conditions fueled the fires just south of the border as well.

(source: EarthObservatory)

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