Everyone knows rain is rare in the low deserts of the American Southwest, but Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is actually one of the “wetter” deserts out there with Phoenix averaging 8 inches of rain annually. Staggering figures, we know. In all seriousness, that is a fairly high amount as true deserts go, especially when you consider Death Valley in California’s Mojave Desert only averages 2 inches of rain annually.
Given those scarce numbers, there are two things even rarer than rain in the Sonoran Desert … accumulative snow and dense fog. You may be surprised to find that the latter is the hardest to come by, especially on a widespread scale.
While temperatures drop low enough every few years to bring snow to the low deserts, the conditions needed for the formation of dense fog - temperatures reaching the dew point, calm winds and high humidity - don’t come together very often and therefore, dense fog advisories are almost never issued. So, when a dense fog advisory was issued for the Greater Phoenix Area on January 22, 2020 we got up before dawn and headed out to take advantage of this unique gift.
The day prior saw unusual desert weather as well, in the form of a light, steady mist that fell all day in temperatures that never exceeded the low 50’s. This would be the catalyst for the fog event the following morning and it was one to see.
To look out over a true desert scene filled with stands of towering saguaro cacti, their ghostly shapes peering through a thick blanket of fog, is a true paradox and one that is beautiful to witness. Needless to say, as soon as the sun broke through, the fog began to burn off in short order and just like that, it was gone. We have waited years for a weather event like this to unfold and as ephemeral as it was, it was every bit as magical as we could have imagined it to be. Well worth the wait!