Incident: Falls Fire Wildfire
The Elsinore Effect was coined to describe the radical wind shifts seen in the canyons southwest of Lake Elsinore that are due to the area’s unique geography and topography. The weather event is the warring of two types of thermally driven wind circulation patterns: the mountain/valley circulation dominant in the morning and the sea breeze/land breeze circulation dominant in the evening.
Mountain / Valley Circulation
As the morning sun rises, the eastern slopes warm up and the air begins to lift. Cooler air from the valleys rush in to replace the warmer air and create upslope winds from the East to the West.
Sea Breeze / Land Breeze Circulation
However in the afternoon, it is the cooler sea breezes from the Pacific Ocean which dominate and send winds downslope from the West to the East. This sudden wind reversal can lead and has led—to disastrous effects when fire is thrown in the mix. The “Elsinore Effect” was first termed after the 1959 tragedy in which six firefighters perished during the Decker Canyon Fire.