One of the gorgeous side effects of the Valley's monsoon rains is the blooms in the desert. "In Arizona, we typically experience monsoon storms during the summer. Humidity levels increase, and the season is marked by wind storms, dust storms, and periods of heavy desert rains." (from About.com)
It's really quite beautiful to drive around the Valley and see the newly green landscape spread out before you as you crest a hill. As a kid I loved our very rare cloudy days and spent them looking forward to the rain which would wash the sky into an unbelievable cerulean blue and stripe the cedar fence marking our back property line with gorgeous deep-mahogany splashes of color. It was all set off by the nearly neon green hue of the putting green grass in the manicured section of our 1/3 acre. Ahhh.
OK, out of my childhood and back to monsoons....
Much of the Phoenix area's annual 7 inches or so of rainfall comes in the monsoon season. The definition of 'monsoon' has changed just this year. It used to be that the monsoon arrived when there were 3 days in a row with a dew point of 55 degrees or higher. This usually happened in mid-July and continued through mid-September.
Since nobody really understands what a dew point is anyway (insert tongue in cheek ) it's a good thing the rule has been changed as of 2008. The monsoon season now lasts from June 15 to September 30 each year. 2008 has been the wettest monsoon in recent years.
What's a dewpoint? Wikipedia gives a nearly unintelligible definition. Weather.com does better (on a redirect to the National Weather Service): "Dewpoint is the temperature at which air becomes saturated and produces dew."
Despite the heat, the Valley's landscape comes alive during the monsoon, storing water to get through our dry and (relatively) cold winters. It makes for beautiful Sunday drives.
Want to see another monsoon photo? Or more photos of the Valley in general? See my partner's site, Chris Butterworth of Butter Homes and his Moving Stills series. Or, try About.com's photo album of Phoenix dust storms. This link also provides an excellent article series about the Valley's monsoons, if you're interested.
And by the way, folks make candy out of the ruby red cactus "flowers" pictured above. The quintessential confectioner is local favorite Cactus Candy, but they don't do online orders. It's worth the phone call. But if you simply must order via the web, you can buy these red jelly candies from DesertUSA.com