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March 1934Volume 8, Number 12


By Donald Edward McHenry, Junior Naturalist.

Now the weather has joined the category of unusual features at the Grand Canyon. Seldom has there been a winter season with such a consistent succession of spring-like days. One old timer in the region, Dan Hogan, tells us, however, that in 1890 and in 1901 the winter seasons were somewhat like the present one as we have experienced it to date. On November 30, 1933, Thanksgiving Day, there was a light snowfall of three inches, and December 16 and January 2 have been the only other days during which we have had any snow during the period considered. Then the snow was only four inches and two inches respectively. There have been five days during which we have had precipitation in the form of rain, which altogether has totaled .25". Otherwise the weather has been clear and mild to date.

It is not surprising then that some of our wild flowers are in blossom at this time of the year when the ground is normally completely covered with mid-winter snows. On January 31, the writer discovered a plant of Filaree (Erodium cicutarium) in flower and fruit outside Yavapai Observation Station. On February 3, a wild carrot was found blooming beside Wayside Museum, and on the next day another flower of this family was seen at Yavapai Point. All along the South Rim the Cliff Roses and Fern Bushes are green with new leaves. Here and there, crouched close to the ground and usually in sheltered places, one discovers the first green of some low perennials. February 14, the Cottonwood trees at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon began to show color of new leaves, visible even from Yavapai Point. On February 19, Ranger Ed Laws, as he was eating lunch in the open on the South Rim, found a Horned Toad (Phrynosoma douglassii) sunning itself.

Such evidences as these are decidedly out of season and in strong contrast to the severe winter being experienced in the eastern United States and in some other parts of the continent. It is noteworthy also that one of the mildest of our winters should come so close on the heels of one of the most severe ones ever experienced in this region. The winter weather of 1932-33 began with a snowfall on Armistice Day, and from then until near the end of March the ground was continuously covered with snow. During the present winter, snow has remained on the ground for the most part only in more or less inconspicuous patches scattered in protected spots beneath trees.

Such weather as we have had to date this winter, although most delightful for visitors to Grand Canyon, nevertheless presents a serious threat to the moisture necessary for the coming growing season. Our spring moisture is largely derived from melting snows. Under the present circumstances, it is not likely that we will see the usual number of spring flowers which add much beauty to the slopes and rims of the Canyon. There is, of course, the possibility that we may have as unusual weather during the coming spring season as we are having this winter. In that case we may have moisture from rains at a time when rains are not usually expected.

The following table gives comparative meterological data for the last three winters on the South Rim, including a period from November 11 to February 20 in each case. The winter of 1931-32 is given as an example of a severe winter at the Grand Canyon, that of 1932-33 as an average, and the present season of 1933-34 as an unusually open season. This meterological data was furnished by Ranger Robert R. Williamson - weather observer for Grand Canyon.

Total snowfall 87.9"67.4"10.5"
Greatest single snowfall 11.5"8.0"4.0"
Average monthly mean temperature 27.5°32.3°37.8°
Average monthly mean Max. temperature 41.2°45.8°49.7°
Average monthly mean Min. temperature 19.4°18.9°26.0°
Absolute maximum temperature 60.0°65.0°64.0°
Absolute minimum temperature 5.0°14.0°2.0°
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