Drought in Northern Arizona

October 28, 2009


Photographer: Joe Orman; Joe's Web Page
Summary Author; Joe Orman

The summer of 2009 in Arizona was the third-driest on record. This photo pair, showing the same scene in a northern Arizona forest in late summer but taken three years apart, dramatically shows the effect of the drought on the forest. The left photo was taken August 20, 2006. Although the winter of 2006 recorded near record low precipitation, the summer of 2006 brought above average rainfall, leading to the greenery seen here. The right photo was captured on September 6, 2009. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the statewide rainfall total for June through August 2009 was only 2.17 inches (5 cm), compared to the long-term average of almost 4.5 inches (11 cm). The drier conditions led to significantly more forest fires across northern Arizona than in previous years. When considering the long-term climate of the southwestern United States, the period from the late 1990's to the present is the driest on record and has been named the "Early 21st Century Drought."

 The photos were taken along a trail on Campbell Mesa, a popular hiking and mountain-biking area in the Coconino National Forest, just east of Flagstaff, Arizona. Campbell Mesa trail GPS: N35° 11' 58.4154"/ W-111° 33' 46.4394"