Saturday, May 28, 2005

Unusual Weather We're Having

the dead grapefruit tree as the rain begins.

This is the dead grapefruit tree in our back yard.  I took the picture today, not because the tree is inherently wonderful or interesting, but to show you the clouds behind it. 

You see, it rained today in Tucson. 

It didn't rain much, but it did rain.  That probably doesn't sound like big news, but around here, it kind of is.  To paraphrase a book called Arizona 101, "When everyone at the office rushes to the window, that means it's raining."

The usual statistic for Tucson is 360 sunny days a year.  That doesn't mean that it only rains five days a year.  No, what happens is, most of the year it's sunny all day long. Then during part of the winter, and again (only more so) in July and August, it will be sunny part of the day.  Then in the afternoon the clouds will build up, and it will rain, usually between 4 and 6 PM or else at night.  That's part of what's called the Arizona monsoon.  The monsoon is the summer storm season, and the specific weather pattern that fuels it.  There's also a winter storm season, but it's not really the monsoon.  The summer is when you get all the thunder and lightning and stuff.

So why am I talking about this in May?  It rained today.  Normally it doesn't rain much in May, if at all.  Normally, it hasn't quite reached 100 degrees by May, either, but we've already had 110 degrees, repeatedly.  The little sprinkle late this afternoon accompanied a much-needed cooling off. 

I'm not quite sure what the deal is with the weather this year.  I think we're supposed to be having another round of the weather pattern called El Niño.  We had more rain than usual this winter, leading to a good wildflower season.  The downside of this, according to the weather people, is that the spring flowers will dry out for summer, adding fresh fuel to summer wildfires.  Now we've got this premature heat and moisture, caused by a monsoon-like weather pattern.  A weather report I saw the other night called this "pre-monsoonal." One of my co-workers heard another reporter call it the "mocksoon."

a fifteen-year-old rainbow over Tucson

So what does that bode for this summer?  Will Mount Lemmon catch fire again this year, or will we be both careful and lucky this time?  Does 110 in May mean 120+ degrees in July?  Will the rain this summer mostly skirt the edges of the valley that is Tucson, as it did last year, or will we get lots of gullywashers?

I'll let you know as things develop. 

Meanwhile, were are a few rerun photos I first posted last year.  The rainbow one was taken in the back yard of our old house in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains west of the city,  back in 1990.  The tall cactus thing is a saguaro, probably 150 years old and dying by then. 

The fire picture is a little older than the rainbow one.  It predates the really disastrous fire on Mount Lemmon, the Aspen Fire, by over a decade. The Aspen Fire took out the village of Summerhaven a few years ago.  It's pretty much all rebuilt now, and lawsuits are pending over inadequate insurance coverage.  But the fire in this photo that John took in the late 1980s was farther down the mountain, in an area were only wildlife lived.  And that, of course, is bad enough.

Fire on Mount Lemmon, overlooking the city.Me, I want a relatively cool, relatively wet summer, to refill the reservoirs and dampen any fire hazards, and finally put an official end to the decade-long drought.  Weather like that might save lives, and give me pretty images to capture.

Well, we'll just have to see, won't we?  Stay tuned.


Fun facts about the Tucson monsoon - NWS

Fire on the Mountain - More on the Monsoon


ondinemonet said...

Hi Karen :)

Lovely photographs as usual. I always marval at how a fire that is burning far away at night can look so beautiful. I haven't been able to photograph a rainbow yet...very cool picture! I would absolutley melt away in Tuscon, I could never survive the dry heat, the critters or the fire danger. My hats off to you my dear, yet one more reason you impress me!

Always, Carly :)

rap4143 said...

Wonderful captures.  I love the dessert landscape, so different from our landscaping.

ryanagi said...

Sending rainy vibes your way (since it's done nothing BUT rain here for almost a week). LOL

sakishler said...

I think the dead grapefruit tree is VERY wonderful and interesting!

(apparently I have some weird thing about dead tree pictures. Those have always been my favorite Ansel Adams shots, too, but you don't often find them on the calendars!)

peachystrey said...

I can understand your confusion.  We're just as confused over here.  Right now, the thunder is booming and the wind is howling.  No rain yet, though.  It's about 4:15 and I think it's going to skirt us for the most part.  Love the pics though!  ~Peachy

deabvt said...