Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Tomorrow May Rain

It took me a couple of days to get around to this entry, and now my semi-clever Beatles reference is out of date.  I also don't really feel like writing about this in any depth tonight.  But I already have the pictures, and nothing more pressing to write about, so here we are.

As you can see from the first photo below, it rained in Tucson on Saturday.  It was May, but it rained anyway--not a spotty little rain as on Friday but a good, monsoon-style late afternoon downpour.  John and I were at Speedway and Craycroft when it hit.  We came out of Charlie's Comics at about 5 PM, just in time to see not only some serious rain, but also an employee of another business in the strip mall standing outside, snapping digital photos of the rain.  I had to wonder whether she was blogging the weather.

Saturday's rain, Speedway and Craycroft

We dashed to the car, and drove across the street to eat at Sanchez. I annoyed John by taking pictures from both the parking lot (above) and inside Sanchez (below), trying to capture the rain and the neat Sanchez decor.  It wasn't really successful, but I like this particular indoor photo.  You can't really see it here, but rain was bouncing off the roofs of cars in the parking lot.

Saturday's rain as seen from Sanchez
Saturday's rain is blogworthy because 1) there were power outages because of it, 2) it happened in May, and 3) it was very monsoon-like. 

Now I'll grant you, nobody outside Tucson will care much if the lights go out here, but John and I had to reset clocks two or three times on Friday and Saturday. 

The second point is more significant.  See, the thing about May is that it only averages .2 inches (a fifth of an inch!) of rain for the entire month.  Saturday's rain was a record-breaker, with .42 inches by 10 PM--more than double the monthly average in one day. 

The third point is a little more nebulous.  Meteorologists have specific things they look for in determining whether the monsoon has arrived, all bound up in dew points and where the moisture is coming from.  Because of all this, and the fact that it almost never officially hits before July, you can bet that the weather people will fudge the May rain anomaly as "pre-monsoonal" or a "mocksoon."  Nevertheless, the pattern is there. The moisture is coming from the right place, building up in the usual way, and hitting the ground at the right time of day.  It's just too soon for it, that's all.  Officially, the earliest monsoon start ever was on June 17th, in the year 2000.

If you've lived in Tucson a while, you know what the summer monsoon is like.  I've always associated it with Alan Jay Lerner's lyrics to the song Camelot, because it seldom rains before four or five PM.  To say "it never rains 'til after sundown" is only a slight exaggeration.  Early in the day, it's sunny overhead.  Then clouds build up over the mountains that ring the city, as in this picture I took on Sunday:

a typical Tucson cloud pattern

Sometimes it only builds up enough to rain over the mountains, and sometimes it dissipates, an unfulfilled promise.  But other times it eventually fills up the sky in between.  By five o'clock, it's raining, often with thunder and lightning.  Thus (we're back to Saturday for this shot):

rain as seen from the car
So why did it rain at the end of May? I'm not sure.  But at least I got some pictures to document it.  And tomorrow?  Well, the Weather Channel says otherwise, but it may rain.  Even if it is June by then.


NWS/NOAA Monsoon page
Thousands lose power in record May rainfall | The Arizona Daily Star ®
Tucson Weather History - CityRating.com


gaboatman said...

If this isn't a testament to global warming, I don't know what is.   I find it interesting that the earliest start in history before this was only five years ago.  Hang in there, Karen.  To borrow a line from Barry Manilow, "I hope you make it through the rain."

rap4143 said...

We've had the coolest, wetest spring and will probably go right into summer.

ryanagi said...

So...is more/early rain a GOOD thing? Or a BAD thing?