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Q: Weather; freak heat wave in Santa Barbara, CA, around the year 1900 ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Weather; freak heat wave in Santa Barbara, CA, around the year 1900
Category: Science > Earth Sciences
Asked by: whk-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 05 Sep 2005 20:22 PDT
Expires: 05 Oct 2005 20:22 PDT
Question ID: 564672
In the late 1800's or early 1900's there was a 12 hour heat wave in
Santa Barbara, CA.  The temperature rose from 80 degrees to about 135
degrees in just a few hours.  My recollection of the name of it is 
"Simoon"(sp).  I want to find out what caused it but I am unable to
find it on the internet.  Please direct me to a site for it.  Thanks.
Subject: Re: Weather; freak heat wave in Santa Barbara, CA, around the year 1900
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 05 Sep 2005 21:49 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
I have gathered some information for you on the freakish 1859 heat
burst in the vicinity of Santa Barbara, which has been called "The
Great Simoon."

"For many years, Goleta (next to Santa Barbara on the coast) held the
U.S. temperature record of 133 degrees from a sundowner heat burst
event on June 17, 1859.

I found this event hard to believe when I first read about it in the
book 'California's Wonderful Corner' (1975) by local historian Walker
A. Tompkins. He called the wind a simoon, an Arabic word."

Treebeard's Stumper Answer: Devil Winds

"June 17, 1859 - The only 'simoon' ever to occur in the United States
is reported by a United States Coast Survey vessel off Goleta. A
northwest wind brings scorching temperatures of 133 degrees between
1:00 and 2:00 that afternoon. Birds fall from the sky, crops shrivel
and cattle die under the shade of oak trees."

Aguajitos Ranch: A History of the Aguajitos Ranch

Here's a description of the event:

"THE SUN COMES UP bright that day. It is a Friday-June 17, 1859. There
is a little breeze from the northeast, a clear sky, and the promise of
a warm day. The morning temperatures are normal, 75-to-80 degrees,
with an offshore breeze that prevents the ocean from having a cooling

By noon, people begin to notice something unusual is happening. The
temperature has quickly risen to almost 100 degrees and the mountain
breeze is becoming stronger and stronger. About 1 pm a heavy blast of
hot air sweeps through the Goleta Valley from the direction of Santa
Ynez Peak, driving even the hardiest into the shelter of their homes
and filling them with terror; they think the end of the world has

The superheated air continues to pour down on the coast for the next
hour. By 2 pm the temperature is an incredible 133 degrees! Many of
the people take refuge behind the thick walls of Daniel Hill's adobe,
who is owner of Rancho La Goleta, where they pray fervently for the
oppressive heat to be lifted.

For the next three hours the temperature hovers at 130 degrees; by 5
pm it has cooled off only slightly, to 122 degrees. The inhabitants
wonder if this will ever come to an end. Then suddenly, as fast as it
has come, the hot breeze dies and a cool marine breeze washes over the
land. By 7 pm the temperature is a comfortable 77 degrees and the
half-baked citizens emerge from their houses to see what damage has

'Birds had plummeted dead from the sky; others had flown into wells
seeking cooler air and drowned,' says Walker Tompkins, describing the
event in his book, Goleta the Good Land. 'A fisherman in a rowboat
made it in to the Goleta sandspit with his face and arms blistered as
if he had been exposed to a blast furnace.'

'Calves, rabbits and cattle died on their feet,' adds a government report."

Santa Barbara Outdoors: Fire on the Hills

From a newspaper account of the "Great Simoon":

"In June 1859 Santa Barbara?s weather had been quite normal, with
highs in the 70s and low 80s. But on June 17th, all the record books
were broken. Santa Barbara experienced the greatest temperature change
in one day in North America.

The day began sunny and clear. Around noon, the temperature was an
unusually warm 100. Then a hot air current swept into the Channel
Basin. This was no regular Santa Ana wind; rather it swept in from the
northwest. Residents called it a simoon, referring to the hot, dusty
and suffocating winds of the Arabian Desert. The simoon struck like a
furnace, destroying nearly everything in its path. Cattle dropped
dead. Fruit fell from trees and withered on the ground. Vegetation was
scorched and crops were ruined for the year.

As thermometers rose to an incredible 133, there was so much dust in
the air that residents could scarcely see the sun. People fled to
their homes or local churches, seeking shelter... For some three
hours, the temperature held steady at 130. Then, around 5 in the
evening, the temperature cooled to a still sizzling 122. But then the
simoon left as quickly as it had come. By 7 p.m., the temperature was
back to 77!"

Cached copy, Santa Barbara?s "Great Simoon", by Carla Kallan

Here's a bit of info on the word "simoon":

This is a very hot and dry wind that blasts across the African
deserts. It can form into whirlwinds although this is most likely a
secondary result of the low-level thermic heating rather than just the
wind itself. It is one of the briefest winds and lasts only 20 minutes
but can carry mounds of dust and sand that it has scooped from the
desert floor. This is one of the winds that reshapes the desert and
the sand dunes across the late Spring and the Summer. Its name comes
from the Arabic for Poison. It appears to have similar characteristics
to the Samiel."

CloudWall: Local Winds

The Santa Barbara Outdoors site gives this explanation of some of the
causes of a simoon:

"These devil winds are known by many names-simoon, santa ana or
sundowner in Southern California; chinook in Colorado; ghibli in the
Middle East; zonda in the Argentinian Andes. It is a condition
initiated by conditions a thousand miles away, where high pressure on
the western slope of the Rocky Mountains forces the dry, hot desert
air toward the Pacific Coast.

These vicious winds can reach speeds of from 20 to 90 miles per hour
and last for 2-to-3 days. They occur most often in August, September,
and October, at the end of the long, waterless summer, when the
chaparral is at its most vulnerable. Under such conditions the
chaparral can explode like a bomb, burning through the mountains at a
rate of four-to-six square miles an hour, an amount equivalent to
about 4 million gallons of gasoline.

The santa ana wind is born in the Great Western Basin, an area between
the Rockies and the Sierras, when high pressure systems of warm air
build up there. When a zone of low pressure develops near the Pacific
coast, this mass of warm air will begin to move westward towards the
Pacific Ocean, eventually reaching very high temperatures by the time
it descends on the Southern California.

It is in the nature, or the physics, of wind that this occurs. When it
is warmed, air rises, and as it does cooler air slides across the
surface of the earth to fill the void left by this rising air. As this
air moves across the land we feel it as wind. The speed of this
current often increases when traveling from a place of high elevation
to a lower one, as is the case when it moves from the Great Basin to
the coast.

Once generated, the santa ana winds swoop out of the desert, often
without warning, howling through canyons and mountains, spilling
through the coastal passes and funneling into Southern California
along several main channels."

Santa Barbara Outdoors: Fire on the Hills

My Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: simoon "santa barbara"

Google Web Search: 1859 simoon

I hope this is helpful. If anything is unclear or incomplete, please
request clarification; I'll be glad to offer further assistance before
you rate my answer.

Best regards,
whk-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Weather; freak heat wave in Santa Barbara, CA, around the year 1900
From: pollybc-ga on 01 Oct 2005 11:08 PDT
I have heard rumors about this event for years, but no facts.  So
greatful for this great response...thank you!

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