Jul 8, 2006

We Love The Rain

Here in the Sonoran Desert we have a summer period we call the monsoons. It is our rainy season and we look forward to it with much anticipation of a break from the blistering heat. Every year at this time, the local news outlets open their files of seasonal stories and drag out several predictable ones. Don't drive in flooded areas, watch for lightning, have a flashlight in case the power goes out, blah, blah, blah. One annual rehash is that our monsoon rainfall is not a monsoon at all, which refers to wind patterns not rainfall, per se. They usually have some university know-it-all explain it to us in tedious detail, while some news hairdo pretends to follow along. I'm unimpressed, so I will still call it the monsoons. For most of the year our winds are westerly and because the Pacific ocean is cool, the air is dry, really dry. Dry air means no rain. Oh sure we sometimes get a cold front that brings rain in the way most places get it, but not much. Which, coincidently, is why we are a desert. The moonson wind shift begins in late June or early July bringing us moisture from the warmer Gulf of Mexico and/or the Gulf of California. The heating of the desert floor causes this moister air to rise, where it cools and voila!, you get a big old thunderstorm, with lightning and intense winds. Or at least that's what I think happens. This weather pattern brings us much of our annual rainfall. In southeast Arizona, where we live, the average annual rainfall is between 12" and 20" more or less, depending upon the elevation that you live and how far north you are in the area. Generally, the farther from the Gulf of Mexico you get, the less it affects your weather. This is why Montana gets almost none of our monsoon rainfall (Thank you folks, thank you. I'll be appearing here all week). Another thing about our rainfall is that it is very spotty. Yesterday at Casa Sneed we had over an inch of rain in less than an hour, but five miles south, there was almost no rain. This leads to a lot of discussions like this. Guy 1: "Get any rain at your house?" Guy 2: "Nope you?" Guy 1: "Man, it rained like a sum-a-bitch for about an hour. Wind tore off my neighbor's roof." Guy 2: "Well, I wish we would get some rain." This conversation could literally take place between two people living a mile apart. Anyhow, it has rained some and we are glad. (Click on images to enlarge) In our fair city the mountains that surround us on the north and the east drain through the city via a series of dry washes and rivers. This is a photo of what happens when we have a heavy rain. During our rainy season (now) the desert soil quickly becomes saturated and the rain runs off. The water collects and runs to the northwest, which is downhill away from the city. This river bed is about 300 feet wide and was absolutely dry this morning when I got to work at about 9 am. The water is not only running heavily in the clear part of the channel, but extends to the left about 100 feet beyond where the vegetation appears to line the channel. The vegetation is actually in the river bed. This picture was taken at about 4 PM. Have a good one. Merle Tag:

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