I was alerted to the sound of rain drops on the skylight. We were having our first significant rain in months. Sure, we had a few sprinkles earlier in the week that yielded 0.02 inches of rain, but this was the sound of large drops falling, and the rain went on for 15 minutes, slow and steady.
I just checked the rain gauge. It contains 0.15 inches of rain. For those of you in the Mississippi and Missouri River valleys where you have been dealing with floods, it may not sound like much, but for us it is significant. It is significant because it is the first serious rain since April. The squall that hit us is one of a number of small thunder storms traveling across the state. There appears to be another coming in the distance. We hope it will hit us. It is significant because we hope it is the beginning of our monsoon season. The mountains standing east of us are prepared to catch the clouds and wring any excess water out of them. Thus any rain that does not fall in the valley or on the mesas will be added to our water table when it falls on the mountains.
When you stop laughing, please read on. A monsoon is defined as a seasonal rain. Of course most people are thinking of the famous monsoons of the Indian subcontinent. Our monsoon carries significantly less water, but it is a seasonal rain that we count on. Our precipitation averages 8 inches per year. About one third of it falls during our monsoon season from late July through mid September. Of course dates vary by as much as 6 weeks.
With the serious fire hazards we have, everyone is praying for the monsoon to come soon. Any rain would help the firefighters, but it would take an abnormally large storm to slow a fire the size of the Las Conchas fire that has been threatening Los Alamos.
This rain is important in that it wets the ground and provides water to some of the wild plants and animals. The ground is wet on the surface, but when I drive a shovel into the ground, I find dry dirt less than half an inch below the surface. This rain will drive some of the salt in the soil downward, but will not solve our soil salinity problem by itself. This rain will also suppress the dust for a while.
On the other hand, this is a trivial amount of rain. With the except of certain trees and plants with very long tap roots, little grows without extra water. All agriculture and gardening is dependent on irrigation. Unfortunately, our river water and ground water is high in calcium salts. Thus each time I water the garden, I am increasing the salinity of the soil. Hopefully we will get enough rain this year to wash some of this salt down. Likewise, this rain does not reduce our fire danger significantly. We will need a full monsoon season to get back to the point that the forests and grasslands are not tinder dry.
Before moving to the desert, I took rain for granted. Sometimes it fell when we needed it to keep the garden green, and sometimes it fell at inconvenient times. Here, we need it badly.
Great literature often has taken its plots from rain and storm cycles. Much of the “Depression Literature” such as Grapes of Wrath are based on the human drama caused by the “dust bowl” drought. All of us who are writers, need to look at the rain for inspiration.
Note: I am gathering information bout our firefighters. They are due some praise. I expect to write a post about them soon.