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Posts Tagged ‘Desert Rain’

It’s been a dry 2014 here in the Sonoran Desert, about 0.6 inches of rain. Annual amounts for January through May average about 3.3 inches. So less than 20% of the average rainfall for the first five months of the year. We’ve had one true rain since we arrived in late December.

It’s been hot as blazes the last few days as well, over 100° yesterday. Forecast today was 104° with a front moving through. It was 80° at 5:00 am. But even though the humidity just before dawn was less than 20%, clouds filled the sky and the weather forecasters, ever optimistic in the desert, gave it a 20% chance of rain.

By mid-morning we smelled it—the unique clean dry(?) smell of wettening creosote. Yes! It was raining somewhere within our aromascape. We waited expectantly. I felt a few drops as I ran to close the car windows. Then…nothing.

The desert is a harsh mistress. But nothing caps that amazing smell of desert rain. No matter where it might have fallen.

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Saturday it rained—hard, grey sheety rain, coming down on a southeast wind-driven diagonal. Saturday’s rainfall was 0.75 inches, a record for January 26. It rains again this morning, big drops falling from a black smear of cloud. Blustery winds sigh through overhead electrical wires and whistle under doors.

In Port Orford, this rainfall would be considered puny; in fact, probably no one would even comment on it. It’s an every day occurrence in January, where averages flag in at 15 inches or so. But here, south of Tucson, where the monthly average is less than an inch, it is delightfully unexpected.

Canale© AME

Canale
© AME

Here in the Sonoran desert, rains generally come as torrents. It pours off flat roofs and out canales (wooden or clay conduits), and after only a few minutes puddles on pavement and sidewalks. Arroyos fill quickly with braided bands, and if it’s summer, can flood banks and otherwise dusty road crossings.

Arroyo Next Door© AME

Arroyo Next Door
© AME

Almost immediately after, the sun returns and surfaces steam in the brightness, drying within the hour. Creosote and palo verde gleam with water and fill the desert air with their unique odor. Wet dirt turns dry.

To desert dwellers, Gary Nabhan’s book title “The Desert Smells Like Rain” could not be more evocative or more accurate. Often the scent comes first, telling of rainfall in the distance, possibly heading our way.

For residents of this parched land as well as returning desert lovers like us, that aroma could not be more welcoming.

DESERT RAIN & CLOUDS

© SR Euston

Palms in Rain

Palms in Rain

Arroyo Stream

Arroyo Stream

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

After the Storm

After the Storm

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