Saturday, February 27, 2010

A River Runs Through It!

Rain has come to the desert. The El Nino weather pattern that has brought real winter to much of the country has been responsible for steering the storms that normally pass to our north right over the Desert Southwest. We ended last year a good 5" under our normal annual rainfall (about 12"/year), but year-to-date we are about 2" wetter than normal, bringing weekly rains to Tucson and snow pack to the mountains.

A walk yesterday along the Rillito River Park, which meanders along a wash that is normally dry for 50 weeks of the year, confirms a real stream. It appears to be the result of snow melt from the surrounding mountains - snow that can be seen in the Rincon Mountains in the background. In fact, tonight's forecast is a 90% chance of rain - rare in the desert. I think the local weathermen are getting a little cocky with the regular storms coming through. Normally even a 30% forecast of rain (about the highest it ever gets here) guarantees dry weather. But this Spring appears different, with the regular rains turning yards green (weeds germinating for the first time in years!) and precipitating predictions of spectacular wildflowers in the desert in the coming weeks, which require regular winter rains.

The walk along the Rillito showed no signs yet of spring, but remember, these are desert plants that spend the summers at 105F, so they don't stir much until it gets to the upper 70s. Highs have only touched the mid-60sF lately, so it is still early. I did spot a few hummingbirds that seemed out of place, and the only other wildlife was this Red-tailed hawk, watching the walkers with interest - especially those walking small, yappy dogs!


Eric J. Anderson said...

I've noticed a few wildflowers starting to pop amongst the urban landscapings. Penstamons, lupines, and desert marigold have re-germinated along our driveway but won't be blooming for a few weeks. But so far it looks like the weeds are outpacing any poppies in the front yard.

We keep loose track of the rain in our yard, we're around 6" for the season.

Shannon said...

I'll never forget that Vicki, MawMaw and I went walking along that river walk and I said,"Where's the river?"
Now ... there it is!