Arizona Weather

Memoir (25) by Professor Joe Watkins, University of Arizona, USA

Mark Twain, an American author and humorist, is credited with saying “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” I have discussed weather a lot as I have written about my impressions of Hokkaido – the first snow of Sapporo; the Ice Festival – and how it reminded me of other things, like rabbit hunting as a child in the fresh snow. Weather is very often used as a conversation starter or as a way of extending interaction, but, for me, it was an adjustment as I lived in Hokkaido for the last year.

I currently live in Tucson, Arizona, in the southwestern United States. The temperature here can get as high as 46 C (115 F), but rarely gets down to -4 C (25 F) in the winter. We live in the Sonoran Desert, with the area punctuated by saguaro, prickly pear, cholla, and other types of cactuses, a variety of tree species, and lots of ground plants. The vegetation is adapted for a scant rainfall for Tucson of about 30 cm (about 12 inches) per year.

We had lightning and thunderstorm at our house the last week of August. I literally mean at our house – a lightning bolt struck a palm tree and a concrete block wall in our backyard! There was a brilliant light and an immediate blast, and Carol and I ran out of the house trying to locate where the bolt had struck. It wasn’t until the next day when we saw bits of concrete block in the yard that we traced the location of the strike and the source for the concrete fragments to our wall. Then a couple of days later, I saw the scorch mark on the tree (see the picture) and pieced together what had happened.

Some of our electronic equipment was fried and we have replaced them; the palm tree is dying and we’ll have to have it removed; our wall now has a crack in it and some of the concrete blocks are out of alignment because of the lightning strike. But we know how lucky we were that none of us were in the backyard when Nature paid us a visit.

Cloud formations after the storm.

Lightning bolt scorch mark about halfway up on the right side of the tree.