The Brookings Effect is a meteorological phenomenon in which dry adiabatic heating increases the temperature of a mass of air as it travels down slope. It can occur at any time of the year producing temperatures near the Chetco River mouth which are up to 40 °F (22 °C) higher than without the air movement. This is the same phenomenon as the Santa Ana winds.
On July 8, 2008, Brookings recorded a high temperature of 108 °F (42 °C) at the airport. This was not only the highest recorded temperature in the town's history, but also the highest recorded in the state of Oregon on that day. The Crescent City airport, approximately 30 miles south, recorded a high temperature of 68 °F (20 °C) that day. Temperatures in inland Oregon throughout the Willamette Valley reached temperatures into the mid-nineties. The Brookings Effect remained very strong and localized until July 13, 2008, when high temperatures in Brookings dropped to 61 °F (16 °C), which is about seven degrees lower than average during the month.
This report contradicts the common idea that the Brookings Effect is a Chinook wind, as moisture does not appear to play a role in the moist adiabatic cooling of air on the windward side of a mountain range, followed by dry adiabatic warming on the lee side. In contrast, the Brookings Effect resembles a Santa Ana Wind, common in Southern California in the autumn and winter. In nearly every event observed, the Brookings Effect occurs when there is a high pressure ridge off the Pacific Northwest coast or in the Great Basin, depending on the time of year, and often a cutoff low in southern to central California, causing a northerly to easterly wind in the Brookings area.
Studies[who?] have shown that the north-to-south orientation of the Chetco River mouth and the town of Brookings plays a large role in the high temperatures recorded, and the reason the effect is localized. During most of the year, a sea breeze sets up along the coastline with prevailing surface winds from the northwest. The heart of Brookings, with its orientation, is protected from this maritime flow and the warm, dry, down-sloping winds that are funneled down the coastal range into the deep Chetco River gorge can reach the coast uninfluenced by the effects of the Pacific.
During the Brookings Effect, there is a strong correlation between the observed temperature in Brookings and the 850 millibar temperature (the temperature at approximately 5,000 feet (1,500 m)) in Medford, Oregon, as is determined by the weather balloon sensing equipment launched twice a day. Medford, located inland of Brookings, is located in a valley, surrounded by the Oregon Coast Range, the Siskiyou Mountains, and the Cascade Mountains. The surface temperature in Medford is often influenced by the mountains, but the 850 millibar temperature, well off the surface, is about even with the mountain ridges in the area, and therefore unaffected. Mesoscale easterly flow at this level will cause the same air mass to move westward toward Brookings, and studies show that high pressure induced atmospheric subsidence causes the air mass to flow down the slopes of the coastal range. The Chetco River gorge, which is very deep in some places, works as a funnel to bring the parcel to the coast.
Often in the winter, temperatures in Medford may peak near 40 °F (4 °C), while temperatures in Brookings will reach the upper 70s (25+ °C) due to the effect, causing Brookings to live up to its "banana belt" reputation.
- Schreiber, Daniel (22). "A Study of the Chetco Effect in the City of Brookings, Oregon and Surrounding Areas". Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
- Mass, Clifford F. (March 30, 1987). "The "Banana Belt" of the Coastal Regions of Southern Oregon and Northern California". Weather and Forecasting 2: 253–258.