The Coastal Scene

Southern California

Southern California Photo

61A-200-123 (Linhof, 150 mm)
Flight 61A; 33.5N, 118W, 1 Nov 1985

The Challenger was orbiting along the coast of Southern California at a time when a strong high-pressure system over the Southwest was producing katabatic (Santa Ana) winds. Blowing westerly across the mountains, the downslope compression of the air was bringing hot, dry winds across the coastal plains and ocean. The smog, typically lying as a pall over greater Los Angeles and its inland valleys, had blown to sea, extending as far as Santa Catalina Island, some 30 kilometers offshore. By the time the Challenger crew observed the scene, the smog had drifted to San Diego, 150 kilometers down the coast, as is typical with a waning Santa Ana. Inland, the topographic trace of the San Andreas Fault was easily seen. Lying along the north edge of the San Gabriel Mountains, adjacent to the Mojave Desert, the fault extends through the Cajon Pass, and on toward the the southern edge of the San Bernardino Mountains.

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