Monsoon

When God divided out the wind and the water, and when he decided the path for rain and lightning, he also determined the truth and defined wisdom. God told us, “Wisdom means that you respect me, the Lord, and turn from sin.” — Job 28:25-28, CEV

Tucson-lightningSummer is hot in Arizona. Our prevailing winds come from the west, from the Pacific, but by the time that cool, wet air gets here, it’s been fried by the Mohave Desert and Death Valley — every drop of life-giving moisture has baked away.

Relief from the blast furnace comes every July, when a high-pressure ridge in northern Mexico starts moving north. It slips across the US border (without papers, I might add) and hunkers down in New Mexico and Texas, shoving those hot California winds north.

This Mexican Monsoon rotates clockwise and draws up moisture from the Gulf. Our winds suddenly shift from the west to the east and we find ourselves bathed in wet air from the Gulf of Mexico. The dew point increases. The cloudless skies of June turn hazy. Thunderheads build over the mountains as the desert heat evaporates the moisture and piles it up into towering anvils.

Late on a quiet July afternoon the silence is broken by thunder rumbling in the distance. The winds pick up and the air takes on that indefinable smell of rain.

The horizon darkens and a storm rushes furiously down the slopes of the mountain. Rain pours from the sky in torrents. Lightning flashes, the winds roar, hail stones rattle the windows and dry arroyos fill with foamy, brown water.

Thirty minutes later the stampede moves on. The sun breaks through the clouds, painting the arc of a rainbow across the blue horizon.

I’ve been measuring these rains for the past 15 years, and about half of our annual rainfall of 16 inches comes during the monsoon. Without this annual change in our weather patterns and the moisture recharge it brings, southern Arizona would have too little water to sustain the rich mix of plant and animal life that thrives here.

Last night was our first monsoon storm of the year, and it was a big one. I recorded 4/10ths of an inch in my rain gauge. The rain blew almost horizontally, directly from the east. This morning, you can sense the desert saying “ahhhhh!”

Job credits God with creating the weather patterns, the winds, and the seasonal weather changes that turn the Sonoran desert from brown to green. Through these complex weather systems, God brings water and nutrients to all living things — life pours from those thunderheads.

Today, as we unwrap the secrets of our genes and disassemble the atom, as we model the oceanic and atmospheric currents and predict the weather, we are just as dependent on these seasonal weather systems for life as at any time in human history.

Through something as commonplace as the rain, God sustains our modern world.

Job goes on to say that the Lord of the rain is also the Creator of wisdom and truth. In other words, God not only brings rain to the dry earth, but showers of life for our parched souls, too.

Photo credit: The lightning photo is a long exposure I took from my roof several years ago as a typical Arizona monsoon storm approached. Taken with a Pentax ME Super, Kodak Ektachrome slide film (ASA 64), f16, exposure time about 60 seconds using a tripod and a cable release.

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