|Whiteman Laboratory at the University of Arizona||
The view to the north, of the Catalina Mountains in Tucson from the Marley Building on Dec. 31, 2012.
The view to the east, of the Rincon Mountains in Tucson from Finger Rock Trail on Dec. 31, 2012.
The view to the south, of the Santa Rita Range, and Mt. Wrightson, covered in snow, with Tucson, some ocotillos and sagauros in the foreground, from Finger Rock Trail on Dec. 31, 2012.
A view of the Catalina's from the Finger Rock Trail as above.
Continuing up the trail, lots of saguaros, growing in the sweet spot of just enough water and warmth.
A small pool of water that survived through the day, will be gone by tomorrow...
Several weeks later, that snow was flowing through the beautiful Sabino Canyon as liquid water.
I hope that these photos do reflect the beauty of snow falling in these desert mountains, but they are also meant to show how dependent the lowland deserts and western U.S. in general are on these snowfalls. This snowmelt trickles through the canyons and the rocks, like a drip irrigation system used by every organism in this desert, from saguaros to humans. Snowmelt on mountains in western North America is advancing earlier and earlier. What will the impact be on the creatures that rely on that water? Change is coming and the future might be quite dry and hot out here in the West. See this remarkable report that used tree ring data to track the advance of spring due to global warming: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6040/332.abstract. Water molecules in these snow flakes will end up in the plants we study in the lowland desert, in the birds that feed on those plants, and maybe even in us, as it seeps into the aquifer under Tucson. This idea can be extended to the atoms in one's own body, which were created during the big bang and subsequent super novae. A new book called The Universe Within, highlights this fact if you are interested, by Dr. Neil Shubin, http://www.neilshubin.com/index.html.