Our mission is to inspire appreciation and understanding of the beauty, biodiversity and legacy of Cave Creek Canyon through volunteer work and outreach programs.

March 17, 2022
Photo by Alice Wakefield
A Moderate Winter But The Megadrought Continues

Has our winter weather been typical?
By Richard Schreiber

We are in mid-March and the coldest months of the current winter season are behind us. It may have seemed like a mild winter with only a couple of days of temperatures significantly below freezing and many days of comfortably warm weather. In addition, it is also clear that the severe drought is continuing with December, January, and February precipitation amounts being sparse. So let’s compare the 2021 – 2022 winter season with some previous years and include a few words about the possible effects of La Niña (ENSO) weather pattern.

Weather data was recorded on Limestone Hill so your conditions may have been different but overall patterns are very likely to be similar.

Q: Has it actually been a warmer than average winter so far?

A: Examining the five years of temperature data in the table, the answer is “somewhat”.

December was milder than the previous 4 years with not a single day of below freezing temperatures. On the other hand, the months of January and February were in the mid-range of the five-year period in terms of days with temperatures below 32 degrees F, and mean temperatures.

Starting in December of 2017, throughout the five-year period the mean temperatures for the three months ranged from 45.2 – 52.2 degrees F. Based on this limited comparison we can probably conclude there wasn’t a dramatic difference this winter thus far.
Q:  Are we still in a severe drought, and have the winter rain and snow amounts been improving or getting worse in the last couple of years?

A:  The US. Drought Monitor map for Arizona below tells the story.  Yes, we are in an area of moderate to severe drought intensity, and the D2 Severe Drought area covers most of the neighboring Bootheel of New Mexico. Our precipitation for the three-month period ranged from 1.77 to 2.64 inches for 3 of the previous years, and for this winter 2.07 inches. 

Current conditions place us at the mid-point but the entire period has experienced lower than average precipitation for the winter months. According to the National Weather Service, in a typical winter Tucson receives 2.64 inches of precipitation in December, January and February.
Q: Before the more recent winters, how were the rain amounts in December, January and February?

A: Take a look at the chart below of the five-year period from 2013 – 2017. In each of those years the rainfall amounts in the same three months discussed above were not significantly higher. On an annual basis, drought conditions have been a reality for a long period. Southern Arizona in general has experienced a “megadrought” since 1999 and the NWS Climate Prediction Center is calling for the remainder of the winter and early spring to see below average rain or snow.
Q: Is it true that warmer and drier conditions were expected because we are in a “La Niña” weather pattern this winter and spring?
A: Very likely true. According to a NWS forecaster in Tucson, “La Niña ends up tweaking our weather pattern in such a form that, at least in the Western US, it shoves the jet stream a little further north. That results in warmer than normal conditions here, but it also ... reduces the chances of having those weather systems. And then that’s where it reduces the 
chance of us getting our normal winter precipitation.”  

However, such predictions need to be tempered due to the fact that El Niño and La Niña may be less influential due to other more local weather factors. 
Visitor Information Center [The VIC!]
By Rolf Koford
The newest hosts at the Visitor Information Center are Mike and Andrea (Andy). Drop by and say hello before they leave at the end of March. They host from 9 AM until 3 PM Thursday-Sunday. You may hear a trace of a New Hampshire accent when you talk to them. They love the open vistas of the West and have been coming to Cave Creek Canyon for years. You will definitely sense their enthusiasm and love of the area. As they told me after their first day here, “ We LOVED our time today and can't wait for tomorrow.” We are lucky to have them and hope they will return."
The VIC depends on volunteers. Hosting is one way of volunteering, but there are numerous other ways you can help. Contact me to learn more. Thanks in advance.
Rolf Koford (520) 558-0038 or
Sandstone..........Arizona Rocks!
By Jimi Walker

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of small grains of silicate. It could be said that sandstone is made up of other rocks that have been eroded into sand sized grains. You will mostly find grains of feldspar and quartz, since they are the most resistant to weathering on the earths’ surface.

Water erodes rocks, along streams, rivers and in the ocean. Once rocks are broken down into sand sized grains, they will accumulate along waterway borders. Over millions of years, layer after layer of sand builds up and buries the preceding layer, until the sand reaches a depth where heat and pressure work upon it, turning it into solid rock – Sandstone.

Sandstone has been used since prehistoric times for shelter construction, tools and decorative statues. In Cave Creek campgrounds, sandstone boulders are a nice decorative touch, quite noticeable since they are a bright orange. Some of the most beautiful places in the southwest are made of sandstone, such as Valley of Fire, Antelope Canyon and Arches. 
From the rocks' point of view – “This has all happened before and it shall all happen again”. – (Battlestar Galactica)

Sandstone at
Sunny Flat
by Jimi Walker
Barfoot Park
By Mike Williams

A great place to visit is Barfoot Park. It is at an elevation of 8169' and is near Rustler Park. Birding can be outstanding and the scenery is incredible as you can see from Peg Abbot's photos.

In mid-March there is still some snow on the ground, but it will be gone soon. There used to be a fire lookout on the mountain, but it burned down over 10 years ago.

Ted Troller, a long-time Portal resident, told me that decades ago farmers used to go to Barfoot to collect ladybugs, which "swarmed by the thousands", to use to protect their crops and gardens.
Photo Gallery
Bridled Titmouse by Carol Comeau
Rufous Hummingbird by
Alice Wakefield
Costa's Hummingbird by
Carol Comeau

Spotted Towhee by Alice Wakefield
Lesser Goldfinch
By Alice Wakefield
Curve-billed Thrasher
By Alice Wakefield

West Coast Lady on blooming willow catkins up South Fork of Cave Creek.
By Lori Conrad
Photo by Barbara Ellis-Quinn
Opposition to Air Force MOA Expansion Grows
By Kim Vacariu

Peaceful Chiricahua Skies thanks everyone who has shown interest in the recent Air Force proposal to expand military training operations in our area. Now that scoping comments have been submitted, (our petition now has over 1,000 names!) there will be a lull in the activity while the Air Force prepares the Draft EIS, which is planned to be released in the fall of 2023. However, we all should remain vigilant and active during this time—Together as a community, we believe we can successfully defeat this proposal. Here are things you can do:
  • Write your elected officials and the public agencies that would need to sign off on this proposal. 
  • Report any military aircraft in violation of existing MOA rules with a demand for a response. To do this, contact the Air Force through the Davis-Monthan website or by phone at 520-228-3406. Note time and date, type of aircraft, and location of violation if available.
  • Send letters to the editor of your local newspapers.
  • Some of you have asked where you can donate to support the opposition to this proposal. Chiricahua Regional Council is now accepting donations that can be designated to support the opposition to the Air Force proposal.
Linda Castor
Paula Baldwin
Jacqueline Foutz
Caryn George
Mike Leuthold
Patricia Parran
Steve & Laura Paulson
Reed Peters
Thomas Roseman 
Rick & Joan Schneider
Delia Scholes
Lee Simpson and
Howard Szczech
Denise Ward
Mike & Cecil Williams
David Zittin
Friends of Cave Creek Canyon Board Members
Bob Ashley
Sheri Ashley
Geoff Bender
Rick Beno
Rene Donaldson
Rolf Koford
Pat Parran
Reed Peters
Kim Vacariu
Jeff Wakefield
Alice Wakefield
Cecil Williams
Mike Williams
Help us thank our Business Members who have given generously to Friends of Cave Creek Canyon. Without their assistance, we would be hard pressed to accomplish our goals. Click on the underlined names to check out their websites.    
A.S.K. Pest Control 
Ed Newbold Wildlife Artist
Painted Pony
Sky Islands Grill & Grocery  
Cable Publishing
Daussin & Associates   
Migration Taco
OL' Morani Ranch 
Sky Island Rolfing  
Terry Miller
Umphres Propane
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