All of these share the same cause: When cold air passes over a mountain range, it turns into a strong, gusty wind as it descends down the leeside of the mountain.
The dry, sandpapery feeling in the back of my throat after early-morning cross-country practices in October.
Reading Joan Didion’s essay on the Santa Anas in English class and understanding, for the first time, what it is that writers actually do.
Didion writes: “To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.” A 1988 article from the Los Angeles Times offers a scientific reason: The winds “contain an excess of positive ions,” making us prone to headaches and nausea and prompting the excretion of more serotonin, which causes those edgy feels.
While the actual science evaluating the effect these winds have on our psyche and collective nervous systems is shaky, many Angelenos (myself, a lapsed Angeleno, included) take it as a matter of ancient fact.
It’s about the crazy things that happen when the Santa Ana winds are blowing in Southern California.
Joan Didion quoted this passage in her essay, “The Santa Ana,” available here: And the quote: “There was a desert wind blowing that night.
It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch.
On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight.
For that reason, they loom large in the collective local psyche.
But perhaps it is because so many writers, filmmakers, musicians, and modern-day content creators have tried their luck in Los Angeles that the Santa Anas have taken on such elevated meaning in popular culture.