Saturday, June 21, 2008

Looking For A Hot Time? Try Phoenix, Arizona


Summer in Phoenix, Arizona is brutal. Temperatures run over 100-plus degrees for about five months, usually beginning in mid-May and continuing until mid-October. Some days, like today, top 113ยบ F. with the promise of even hotter days to come. Walking outside has the feel of a blast furnace opened in your face. You can actually feel your skin burn as the sun hits it, made worse by the low humidity. Rare is the day with clouds in the sky, and rarer still are clouds that are more than thin haze. Vegetation has a parched, scorched look that makes you long for the luxuriant green of other climes. As each year passes, I have less tolerance for the inexorable heat. Even as a native of the state, I find the summers wretched and draining. It seems that youth is an insulator and a deflector of heat, and as one grows older, the insulation wears thin. My insulation has worn very thin.

The “dry heat” period will end soon. Monsoon season begins around July 1, and announces itself by a rise in humidity levels. It’s like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, save for the possibility of a thunderstorm. We have had over ten years of drought here, so the storms are rare. Because they are so rare, thunderstorms, in all their glory, are the only thing to look forward to in the heat of July, August, and September. There is nothing quite as beautiful as the huge, dark thunderheads forming on the horizon in the late afternoon, building their mushroom tops as they move closer and closer, holding the promise of rain. Most of the time we get only sheets of heat lightning or a dust storm, but when the rains come, it is glorious! The air cools by double digits and the pungent smell of creosote bushes drifts in from the desert. The next day is especially miserable because of the increased humidity brought on by the rains, but if the thunderstorm was a spectacular one, complete with crashing thunder, giant lightning bolts, and torrents of rain, it is almost worth suffering through the next day.

It seems that those who move here feel compelled to say the heat doesn’t bother them; that they love being outdoors in the scorching sun, and have gladly traded the snow they left for the desert heat. I can understand that trade-off. The remarkable thing is that I’ve met few transplants who seem to appreciate the thunderstorms or the smell of the desert after a rain in the same way that a native Arizonan does. Perhaps thunderstorms and rain were plentiful back in the home state and don’t hold the same fascination as for those who hail from here. But to not appreciate the clean, slightly tarry smell of the creosotes and wet desert earth after a rainstorm? Now that is unfathomable!

13 comments:

Carol said...

After reading about all of the heat in Arizona, California, and Texas, I'm starting to think it isn't so bad to have the cold and snow and ice in the wintertime.

And I do appreciate the clean smell after a thunderstorm, though the smell afterwards is probably quite different here in Indiana than it is in the desert.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

sandy2 said...

I'm no good at extreme heat either but a little warmth in the winter is nice:) Where I live it's wet, windy and cold for about 9 months.

My husband wants to go to Arizona for a winter golf holiday. He loves the heat!

Claude said...

When I see the beautiful pictures of the dessert, like the one that leads this post, I become lost in the beauty of it, and I'm afraid I don't much consider the shear discomfort of heat and climate that created this amazing landscape... We're currently moving into the heat of our summer, usually our temps max out at about 105 in this part of Texas, so I have some idea of how heat can wear you down, but not to the extent that you are dealing with on a daily basis. Stay safe and take it easy...

beckie said...

We hear people from out there saying, 'yes but it's a dry heat.' I don't care-dry heat or not 113 degrees it hot! I do not envy you one bit. Well, maybe when it's mius 30 degrees here. :)

Dee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dee said...

I am an Arizona transplant from SD, (14 years now) and the thunderstorms of the desert just fascinate me! I know what you mean about the incredible scent that the desert gives off- it is one of a kind!
I have a bit different perspective on the monsoon season, living in Tucson- we get a good deal of relief during the season- with clouds gathering over the mountains every afternoon and more often than not bringing some rain and cooling temperatures- It is really too bad the storms seem to fade out before they hit Phoenix!

WiseAcre said...

I remember my time around Parker Az. over 30 years ago when I worked for a crop dusting company. I used to mix the chemicals and load the planes on remote dirt airstrips. The heat kept me sitting in irrigation canals when waiting for their return.

I saw few rainstorms but the ones that I did were really something. One was a prime example of why NOT to build a trailer park in a dry wash :)

Gardenista said...

I don't envy your heat, for sure. I'm in the land of -40 degree winters with 4+ feet of snow. We're planning on going to Arizona next winter to visit some family members who bought a home down there (for winter vacations, of course). I can only imagine walking out into that blast furnace heat, which makes me think of our ridiculous cold. It's like walking into a freezer while your nosehairs freeze and fall off.

Jenn said...

I'm a new transplant, and an economic migrant from Michigan. Phoenix is my home now because here I can find work.

I can acclimate to the heat, but I hate the fact that my office keeps the temps to 70. The shock is tremendous whenever I go outside.

And I'm also one that gardens, so I anticipate every raincloud - but coming from the area of rich, dark, moist hummusy earth - everything here just smells WEIRD after a rain.

All that talk about creosote? I still don't get it.

But I want a few in my yard, anyway. Such pretty glossy leaves. So. Give me time. I may come around yet...

Pam/Digging said...

It doesn't get quite as hot here in Austin as in Phoenix, but I find our long, hot summer to be wretched also, and I completely identify with your feeling that your "insulation" has worn thin. I do adore Austin from October through May, but I fantasize about having the resources to summer in Boulder.

kate smudges said...

It's so hard to imagine what it would be like to have endless days of scorching heat. I've never experienced such hot temperatures ... but I can well imagine how a thunderstorm would be something anticipated and savoured.

My insulation has grown thin for the other extreme of temperature. So true how children don't seem to notice heat or cold.

Anonymous said...

I think when we say "yes, but it's a DRY heat" it is pretty tongue-in-cheek. We are saying, yes it's awful, but we choose it, so let's not whine!

Nancy

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

I wouldn't be able to stand it I know. Oklahoma in the summer is bad enough. My sister lived in Phoenix for awhile. She said it was the temperature of Hell.

Having said that, I could identify with the thrill of thunderstorms. I love them, with all their electric excitement.~~Dee