Sunday, 6 January 2008

Meteorology matters again.... then on to Phoenix

This time 'matters' are verb not noun! It would seem that Mark just managed to escape one of the worst winter storms of the year so far - if not for several years - in California.

According to Trans World News on Thursday California is being hit be a series of storms and it’s being called the worst weather the state has had in years. The storm may bring hurricane like winds, mudslides and possible snow. Bay Area weather is expected to get nasty today with coastal flooding and high winds. Officials were handing out free sandbags to help residents brace for the storm.
A second storm, much larger than Thursday’s, will sweep through areas including San Francisco and Sacramento and will last until Saturday night when another storm will hit that will last through Monday. The Sacramento Airport has grounded all flights due to the weather conditions.

Southern California regions will be prone to mudslides and flash floods. The Sierra area can expect blizzard like conditions. Residents are urged not to drive when the storm hits. “There will be blizzard like conditions, and transportation will be very limited in colder areas, at 7,000 feet and above,” said chief director of the Office of Emergency Services Frank McCarton.

And here, a report from the Daily Telegraph with accompanying photo
Mark missed the worst of the weather by just a couple of days. However, his 'close shave' reminds me of how important the weather is for him - remember those head winds in Australia and the tropical rains of Malaysia and Thailand? I have therefore had a look for a source of good weather information for the USA and have found the National Weather Service site . There is nothing about the US weather - past, present and immediate future - you won't find there! Here, for example, is a map showing the expected weather for the western US today. ... and thankfully it looks pretty calm for Mark...Every so often is is a good idea to remind ourselves of exactly where Mark is in relation to a larger map so here is where he was at the end of play yesterday .
Yesterday's route followed a series of ridges and valleys through the Sonoran desert to the city of Phoenix. The landscape is classic 'western' desert scenery and is often described as 'basin and range' topography. This refers to the series of elongate mountain ranges alternating with broad flat, deserts in between. the relief is the consequence of major crustal movements in the region. As the Pacific Plate moves north relative to the North American Plate, the crust has stretched and cracked producing a whole series of fault lines along which portions of the crust have either been uplifted to form the 'ranges' or downthrown to form the 'basins'. Below, a Flickr image, from close to Wengen (on Mark's route) illustrates this type of scenery well.
It also shows that icon of the Sonoran desert - the Saguaro cactus! there is some excellent reading on the Saguaro here in Wikipedia and also in this website about the desert lands of the USA. Below is a good video explaining very clearly how the saguaro adapts to its desert environment..The towns along Mark's route yesterday - Wengen, Golden, Aguila , Wickenburg, Wittenberg and Beardsley - present as charmingly 'one horse'. Most have their roots in the 'wild west', some with a short history of gold mining and many seem to be just holding on today! Click on the banner below to link to the website of the town of Wickenburg..
...and I always think there is nothing like the local newspaper for gaining a flavour of a place.Click on the title to link to the current front page news stories in Wickenburg! And below, an aerial shot just to show that it's not all saloon bars and stage coaches!
From Wickenburg Mark would have had long gentle descent to Phoenix, which judging from its suburban approaches and the planned expansion evident here, is slowly creeping out into the desert. Phoenix, with a population of 1.5 million is the fifth largest city in the US - and the hottest!
The early economy of Phoenix was primarily agricultural, dependent mainly on cotton and citrus farming made possible by the upriver damming of the Salt River on which it is located. In the last two decades, the economy has diversified as rapidly as the population has grown. As the state capital of Arizona many residents in the area are employed by the government. Arizona State University has alo enhanced the area's population through education and its growing research capabilities. Numerous high-tech and telecommunications companies have also recently relocated to the area. Due to the warm climate in winter, Phoenix benefits greatly from seasonal tourism and recreation, and has a particularly vibrant golf industry! Like all big cities, it is impossible to do justice to Phoenix in a blog. There is, however, a lot of good information here .

No comments: