The deserts of the southwestern United States have a spare, ethereal beauty, and it turns out a light dusting of snow only cranks up the enchantment.
Residents of the southwest were treated to some unusual snowfall this week, with wintry scenes emerging from Albuquerque to Tucson to the Grand Canyon. In the Sonoran desert, powder coated scrubby vegetation and topped those famous saguaro cactuses over New Years. Those who decided to visit the Grand Canyon to ring in 2019 in spite of—or perhaps because of—the government shutdown got to see the park’s majestic red cliffs in rare, snow-capped form.
Photographing a saguaro with snow on it has been somewhat of a white whale for me since moving to the Sonoran Desert. Today, my dreams came true! A Happy New Year indeed. pic.twitter.com/shlmsJ0rtx
— Back o' Beyond (@BackoBeyond_) January 1, 2019
The winter weather in a part of the country better known for its heat comes courtesy of a cold air mass that’s been parked over the southwest for about a week, according to the Washington Post’s Capitol Weather Gang. Glenn Later, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Tucson, confirmed to the Las Vegas Review Journal that conditions right now are “quite uncommon.”
The city received 0.4 inches of snow on New Year’s day, an amount meteorologist Peter Mullinax noted on Twitter is as much as Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston combined have gotten since December 1. Albuquerque saw about 5cm of white stuff on New Years, while up to 7 inches of snow dropped across southeastern Arizona the following day.
— NWS Tucson (@NWSTucson) January 3, 2019
Speaking to the LA Review Journal, Tucson-area resident Jessica Howard described this week’s weather as “pretty magical.”
That magical weather pattern is already starting to fade with temperatures creeping back into the 50s across Arizona today (although the mercury is still struggling to rise above freezing in central New Mexico). But before the cold snap has fully receded into the rear view mirror, it’s created a sight that everyone—even snow-starved East Coasters—should take a moment to enjoy.
— Sarai (@Sarai_AZ) January 2, 2019
— Arizona Illustrated (@azIllustrated) January 3, 2019
Snow is still coming down in Saguaro National Park East. Rare beauty. pic.twitter.com/fhQm8uxAhl
— Andrew Emery Brown (@aemerybrown) January 2, 2019
— Truth Is YouMatter (@TruthIsUMatter) December 31, 2018