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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-2018-179
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Brief communication 26 Jun 2018

Brief communication | 26 Jun 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Brief Communication: Meteorological and climatological conditions associated with the 9 January 2018 post-fire debris flows in Montecito and Carpinteria California, USA

Nina S. Oakley1,2, Forest Cannon2, Robert Munroe3, Jeremy T. Lancaster4, David Gomberg3, and F. Martin Ralph2 Nina S. Oakley et al.
  • 1Western Regional Climate Center, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, Nevada, USA, 89512
  • 2Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla, CA, USA, 92093
  • 3National Weather Service, Oxnard/Los Angeles, 520 N. Elevar St., Oxnard, CA, USA, 93030
  • 4California Geological Survey, 801 K St., Sacramento, CA, USA, 95814

Abstract. The Thomas Fire burned 114,078 hectares in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, southern California, during December 2017–January 2018. On 9 January 2018, high intensity rainfall occurred over the Thomas Fire burn area in the mountains above the communities of Montecito and Carpinteria, initiating multiple devastating debris flows. The highest rainfall intensities occurred with the passage of a narrow rainband along a north-to-south oriented cold front. Orographic enhancement associated with moist southerly flow immediately ahead of the cold front also played a role. We provide an explanation of the meteorological characteristics of the event and place it in historic context.

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The 9 January 2018 post-fire debris flows in Montecito and Carpinteria, California, killed 23 people and destroyed over 100 homes. We examine the meteorological conditions of the event and find that a narrow band of high intensity rainfall along a cold front triggered the debris flow. Observed rainfall rates were extreme, but not unprecedented for the region. This work increases awareness of these rainbands as a post-fire hazard in California and other mid-latitude regions impacted by wildfire.
The 9 January 2018 post-fire debris flows in Montecito and Carpinteria, California, killed 23...
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