Tucson is located in a desert valley, surrounded by five mountain ranges. Elevation in the basin runs from 2300 feet up to 2700 feet in the lower foothills. On the north side of Tucson we find the Santa Catalina Mountains rising up to 9100 feet. On the south are the Santa Rita Mountains rising almost 9500 feet. On the East we have the Rincons, on the west the Tucson Mountains and northwest are the less imposing Tortolita Mountains.
Tucson is located 63 miles north of Mexico and 115 miles south of Phoenix. One of Arizona's four original counties, Tucson is the county seat of Pima County. The metropolitan area is spread over 495 square miles.
Tucson is warm and sunny throughout most of the year, with relatively low humidity. Our coldest month is January, hottest and wettest is July and the driest month is May. Average yearly precipitation is 11.14 inches.
Our desert contains a wide diversity of plant life, unlike the Sahara Desert. Not only are there many large trees, such as, the Palo Verde, the Mesquite, the Cottonwood and the Sycamore, we also have 42 species of cacti within the Basin. Most bloom from April until late May with the exception of the Barrel Cactus that waits until August.
This is a quiet month. The plants are mostly dormant. We all pray for rain to prepare for the coming spring and the annual flowers that rely on the water at this time of year. A lot of the fauna are completing their life cycles this month. Black bear are bearing their cubs. Deer continue their rut. Many of the birds, such as owls, Harris' Hawk, Curve-billed Thrashers and permanent resident Anna's Humminbirds are preparing to nest. This is the time for many Sandhill Cranes, Raptors and Sparrows. Possible Mountain Plovers, Sprague's Pipit and Baird's Sparrows are common rarities.Sunrise: 7:30 am Sunset: 6:00 pm Temperatures range from 38 - 64 degrees. Average precipitation is .83 inches. One can expect about 6 days of some rain and about 6 nights of 32 degrees.
This time of year we look for the early signs of annual flowers. If we have had good rain in September and October, we should have a good bloom. Many mammals are beginning their courtship and breeding. The coyote, javelina, rabbits, kangaroo rats and mice and the Desert Bighorn Sheep are all looking forward to spring. Great-horned Owls are nesting, Gila Woodpecker is drilling a new home, usually in a Sahuaro Cactus. Butterflies are becoming active. Watch for the Pima and Sara Orange-tips around the mustard plants. Sunrise: 7:00 am Sunset: 6:30 pm Temperatures range from 40 - 67 degrees. Average rainfall is .63 inches. Expect about 4 days of precipitation and 4 nights of 32 degrees.
This is a time of great change in the desert. We begin to see annual flowers peeking their heads out. March is usually one of the best months for flowers. The hedge-hog cactus is announcing spring, ushering in the blooming of the cacti. Reptiles and mammals are coming out of hibernation. Love is in the air for many of the small rodents. Birds are starting their migration. Many changes are in store for the next two months. Most of the Sparrows and Sandhill Cranes have left. Gray Hawk, Elf Owl and Warblers are coming in. What a wonderful time of year. A time of renewal and freshness in the air. Sunrise: 6:30 am Sunset: 6:30 pm Average Temperatures: 44 - 72 degrees. Average rainfall is .68 inches. Expect about 4 days of rain.
Migration has begun. The deer are heading for higher ground and the summer birds are moving in. The winter birds are moving out. Spring is in the air. Lots of activity!! Birds are building their nests. Mammals are chasing each other and playing their silly games. The flowers are in bloom. Even the Sahuaro is showing signs of spring. There are several already blooming. What an exciting time of year. Sunrise: 6:12am Sunset: 6:43 pm Average Temperatures: 50 - 80 degrees. Average rainfall is .32 inches. Expect perhaps two days of inclement weather. High elevations can still be quite cold.
May is reportedly our driest month. Even so, the blooming of the desert is in full swing. Mesquites, Palo Verde, and Acacias dominate the area with masses of yellow blooms on each plant. The Sahuaro, Yucca, Agaves and Ocotillo are all putting on a wonderful show. We are seeing snakes and lizards in abundance right now. The portcupine is bearing young. Bird migration is in full swing. As you can imagine the desert is really alive right now. It is possible to spend time in the mountains and the desert which adds lots of diversity. Sunrise: 5:38 am Sunset: 7:04 Average Temperatures: 58 - 89 degrees. Average rainfall is .14 inches.
Most of the flowers have finished blooming and are setting fruit. The Sahuaro's red fruits are bursting wide open and the critters are feasting. The days of June are spent epitomizing those lazy, crazy days of summer. Listen for the cicada's song during the hottest part of the day. Now is the time to head into the Sky Islands or into the White Mountains north of Phoenix. Sunrise: 5:18 am Sunset: 7:25 pm Average Temperatures run from 67 - 98.5 degrees. One might expect maybe one or two days of rain.
The rain is short and violent, subject to flash-flooding. Black-throated Sparrows are beginning to nest if the rain is sufficient. The young of many species can be heard begging for food. The rare hummingbirds from Mexico are beginning to think of vactioning in Arizona. The cicada is in full voice and announcing the dog days of summer. Provided we have enough rain, the grasses and summer flowers will be germinating. Rattlesnakes are having their children. Young coati are struggling for life. The ocotillo will leaf out in full with the summer rains.Sunrise: 5:21 Sunset: 7:22 Average Temperatures: 74 - 98.5 Average Rainfall is 2.42 inches.
The summer Monsoon Season is here with dramatic thunderstorms in the late afternoons. These storms last perhaps an hour and dramatically change the feel of the desert. The plants open up their stomata and the air is full of heady perfumes. Animals are more active due to the humidity. Most of the birds have finished nesting. However, some like the Botteri's, Cassin's and Five-striped Sparrows are just getting started. Lark Buntings are abundant. Some birds are starting their long migrations and Southern Arizona is right along the fly-way. Our late summer wildflowers are blooming now and food is abundant. Turpentine bush is covering the lower foothills. The Desert Bighorn are searching out their mates. The Spadefoot Toad is in a frenzy to complete it's life cycle before the pools from the rains dry up. This month is the peak month for butterflies. This is the time to watch for Mexican species. Many Tucsonans make their way into the Santa Catalina Mountains, just an hour away and twenty degrees cooler than the basin.Sunrise: 5:39 am Sunset: 7:21 pm Average Temperatures: 72 - 96 degrees. Average rainfall: 2.13 inches.
The rains have completed their cycle. Now is the time for ripening of the many seeds, and preparation for the next cycle. Food is abundant in the desert now. The animals are feasting. Most birds are getting ready to migrate to their winter homes in Mexico and South America. The Rufous Hummingbirds are abundant at feeders all over. With the temperatures moderating, we again visit the desert, marveling at its ability to survive through the heat of the summer. The Turpentine Bush is spreading yellow blossoms on the hillsides. The Barrel Cactus' orange blossoms are turning to yellow fruit for the animals to munch on through the winter. Isn't Mother Nature amazing? Sunrise: 5:59 am Sunset: 6:11 pm Average Temperatures: 67 - 94
October is a month of changes, starting over 90 degrees and ending almost cold. The desert is preparing for winter. The fuzzy stuff all over is desert broom, a favorite plant of many butterflies. Some of our birds are already migrating in and out. One has no idea what to expect through the month. Sunrise: 6:20 am Sunset: 5:30 pm Average Temperatures: 56 - 84 degrees.
Most everyone is ready for winter now. The deciduous trees are showing beautiful color, the critters are burrowed in for a long winters nap and the Sandhill Cranes are arriving along with the many species of Raptors. November is usually a fairly dry month with maybe one or two days of rain. This is what we used to call Indian Summer where I grew up. The days are beautiful and balmy . We are able to renew acquaintance with the desert, now that the intense summer heat is moderated. This is among my favorite months in the desert. Sunrise: 6:41 am Sunset: 5:35 pm Average Temperatures: 45 - 72 degrees.