The Five Cs of Arizona: Climate

This article is part of the five Cs of Arizona, which are climate, citrus, cattle, copper, and cotton.

Feb 17th was the earliest Arizona hit 90 degrees in recorded history. The weather can change swiftly and unforgivingly. This weekend and into the coming week there is an excessive heat advisory that could potentially ground airlines, so I imagined it was a good time to introduce the climate of Arizona.

Hot Weather

Phoenix sits on the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert, making it hotter than most larger cities in the state, even it’s south-eastern neighbor, Tucson, which averages lower temperatures thanks to its higher elevation. When it’s hot, it’s hot. Summer temperatures will usually hang above 100 degrees starting in May and lasting sometimes into September and October. You get used to the dryness of it all, but once temperatures jump above 110, you can really feel it, and it’s pretty intense. The best analogy I can think of is think of that blast of hot air that comes out of your oven when you open it up. Now imagine that all over your body.

Haboobs

Arizona also has a monsoon season. Did you think that was only for tropical Pacific regions? So did I, until I arrived in Phoenix. There are a few conditions for the start of the season: Usually, a date is set to June 15th and ends September 30th. Another way meteorologists tend to sense the start of the season is by the number of consecutive days with humidity above 30%. Either way, with monsoon season comes heavy rains and storms known as haboobs.

Haboob - Two Second Street - www.twosecondstreet.com
Photo courtesy of Kayla Markley.

Haboob is the Arabic word for “blasting” or “drafting.” It is, essentially, a very large and powerful dust storm that sweeps across the land. You just see a large wall of rolling red clouds, all the dust and wind manifest in rolling fury. They pass through on the head of fronts, and tend to be more intense the further south in the state you go. We had a small one pass through Phoenix last year that dropped visibility a bit and knocked out power in the Western half of the city, but it wasn’t the worst of the worst.

What is the best way to survive Arizona summers, then? Stay hydrated, stay inside if you see clouds coming, and try not to venture out midday if you can avoid it. While the summers are particularly challenging, the rest of the year is quite beautiful: Cool autumns, chilly winters, and warm and breezy springs. You just have to put up with the summers in exchange for near-perfect temperatures the rest of the year.

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