Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Threatened With Rain

A dreary desert day as storms moving East from California make their way across Arizona. The clouds spit and sputtered but here in the West valley we didn’t see a significant amount of rain – precipitation we could certainly use. The storms are moving fast and should be out of here early in the afternoon. We will all be back to living in the valley of the sun again.

Some folks complain about the lack of rain. I think the well-manicured lawns and abundance of fountains, ponds, and swimming pools gives them the idea they are back in Iowa. Most of the inhabitants are in fact expatriate mid-westerners here to escape the cold and snow and forget this is a desert. They have, however brought problems with them. Overcrowding for one, plants from the Midwest for another. Doctors used to send patients here for the benefit of the clear mountain air. You can forget that now. Between the “brown cloud” from too many people driving too many cars way too fast, and the pollen from all the imports with which to contend there isn’t a clean breath to be had. West African grasses, imported for landscaping have escaped into the wild crowding out native species, filling in all the once bare desert ground, and adding to the threat of wildfire. Without the winter rains the grasses are tinder dry and when they burn they will take the Saguaro and other natives with them. This summer is going to be a bad one for fires.

Monsoon season starts in July, usually, with the onset of low pressure drawing moisture up from Old Mexico and the Gulf of California. These storms are fierce, but don’t always produce moisture. Some are all wind and lightning, a bad mix for parched trees and grasses. There are many microbursts and downdrafts as storms fall apart over the rim country, which in turn generate strong winds blowing from East to West carrying a large wall of dust and debris with it. This is spectacular if you aren’t in the caught in the dust cloud. At this point, there may be some rain mostly in the Eastern part of the valley, but sometimes we catch a break and get some precipitation in the West as well. Things are a bit unbalanced this year as La Niña conditions are driving events. It is tough to say if there will be much relief from the drought even with the monsoons.