Arizona Weather

On our way to Tucson, to refute a recurring argument that I wouldn’t be prepared for the Tucson climate, I did a little research.

“It turns out,” I kept telling everyone, “that Tucson has the same latitude, the same altitude and the same average temperatures as Amman, Jordan. The only difference is that Tucson is 20% less humid.”

All of that is true enough. What I wasn’t prepared for in Tucson was the variability of its summer weather. My experience of the Jordanian desert was eight months of hot and dry with clear blue skies, followed by four months of daily cold downpour.


This was something there was never enough summer moisture to see in Jordan, but we’ve seen rainbows on a few afternoons this summer in Tucson.

I also got a new phone with a vastly better camera, which has given me the opportunity to capture these Gambel quail with greater clarity from inside the house. They’re very skittish, incredibly difficult to get close enough for a really clear shot.

Sunset Clouds

The clouds and moisture in the monsoon summer air certainly makes for spectacular sunsets, though. (And more rainbows!)

We’re also moving into our own place. For at least a decade, I’ve said, “In my next apartment, I’ll have a balcony!” and finally this dream has come true. It gives us new angles for admiring sunsets.


In four years in Jordan and another in Egypt, I think I’ve only ever been in two sandstorms, and despite what you might have seen in Viggo Mortenson’s “Hidalgo,” it was not a cinematic wall of roiling sand clouds. It was more of a slow fade of the light to deep golden ochre, and extra dust in the house the day after.

So, when I heard, “Come and look at this sandstorm!” I didn’t jump up immediately, and I didn’t think there would be much to see.

This, though, was spectacular. It wasn’t as cinematic as Viggo got, but you could definitely see the leading edge make it’s way from right to left across the mountains, darkening the late afternoon sky to evening, flickering almost constantly with cloud-to-cloud lightning.

Eventually, it brought fat raindrops, too, and then a fierce downpour. Once again, I was not expecting that in the desert summer!

After the fact, I learned that this was probably not mere monsoon, but what’s known as a haboob.

In 1971, a group of scientists witnessed an Arizona dust storm so huge that they proposed calling it a haboob, the term used for the infamous dust storms in Sudan….

“Haboob” was the second Arabic term Robert Ingram introduced to describe Arizona weather. According to Ingram’s son, also named Robert, the meteorologist introduced “monsoon” to the state, convincing Channel 12’s then-weatherman, Frank Peddie, to incorporate it in forecasts in the 1950s.

It seems there’s always something new for me in this desert!

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