The Silvery Monsoon

PHOENIX – Beginning our descent from 35,000 feet into the Phoenix area yesterday, the America West captain said we would be greeted by 97 degree temps, but that must have been from his pre-flight weather briefing.

We could already see that the skies were awash with the flotsam and jetsam of disorganized cloud formations at all levels: high cirrus, low smog and haze, mid-level cumulus, a flash-mob of desultory puffs and dirty blankets with no plan of action and little to say.

And I could see the dust devils sweeping up their dirty loads even from aloft, to the west of town, waiting to transport the soil of barren, unimproved industrial lots from the west end of the valley to the swimming pools and carports of urban Phoenix.

It was 107 when we arrived at the house, and rose to 110 by early afternoon. We had had a major dust storm the night before; you could see where the shingles had been ripped from some of the older roofs on our court. The pool was a mess, as you’d expect when the pool vac finally chokes on wind-borne leaf debris and palm droppings.

And the humidity, while not quite up to eastern seaboard standards, was quite uncomfortable, since it is typically much hotter here. Our large outdoor thermometer sits in the shade, and has a hygrometer for humidity, but it is too close to the pool, which loses 1/4 inch of water per day at this time of year (the same as Lake Powell, by the way). So I have no idea what the actual humidity is. “Moderately uncomfortable” is the best I can tell you.

“When”, I asked, “is monsoon season supposed to start?”

“July 17-21, most years”, I was told. The Gulf weather is quite predictable, and brings blessed mid-season rains to Phoenix. Though critical, the amount actually reaching us is always uncertain.

I got the pool cleaned up yesterday. The filter was very sluggish, but a backwash this morning was just the ticket.

I saw lightning last night, maybe 30 miles to the East, which would be in the vicinity of Apache Junction. But no thunder, no storm.

Leaving the Bay Area yesterday, it was 58 degrees. It takes about three days to acclimatize to three-digit temperatures. I try to keep the house at 84-86 degrees, though I would like it at 78 if electricity was still cheap. In Phoenix, we struggle to cool the house down to the mid-eighties, whereas, in the Bay Area, anyone trying to warm the house up to that same temperature would be viewed as crazy!

My plan had been to go to bed early, rise early, and get most of the outdoor maintenance done in the cool of the early morning. At 6AM the outdoor thermometer said “the cool morning air” was 90 degrees. You realize this means that’s the coolest we get all night, a base temperature from which the new day is built. I figure we must have an inversion layer trapping the heat.

So, I went back to bed and slept until 8AM.

We had some partial sun this morning but that is gone, with a high overcast. There is always a light breeze, which is encouraging. At 11AM, it is 97 degrees.

Weather.com takes some patience to get a customized forecast, but it says humidity is about 28% and there will be no star viewing tonight:

Today: Considerable clouds this morning. Some decrease in clouds later in the day. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High around 105F. Winds WSW at 10 to 15 mph.

Tonight: Isolated thunderstorms this evening, then skies turning partly cloudy after midnight. Areas of blowing dust. Low 87F. WSW winds shifting to SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

The 10-day forecast indicates more of same. That’s OK, if the rains are coming!

It is nice to take a dip in the pool. I will have to venture out to hose the dust off the car, do some shopping, and retreat back to the air-conditioned house. The monsoons aren’t here yet, but you never know.

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