Friends from the Midwest often console me about the extreme heat of the Phoenix summer. “But it’s a dry heat!” They’re reminding me of how miserable it is in a Chicago summer heat wave with the typical high humidity.
Little do they know how brutal the summer is here.
The average high temperature now – the hottest it gets – is about 106 degrees (Fahrenheit). That’s 106 in the afternoon in the shade. So, enjoy the shade, then!
What Midwesterners don’t realize is that the brutal sun heats up pavements, sidewalks, and stones hotter than you can touch. That heat radiates up against the body. I can sit in the morning shade on my north-facing patio for the first couple of hours after sunrise. But by then, my gravel yard is radiating unwelcome heat. It’s like sitting in front of an open oven – a dry oven, it’s true.
So why do I have a gravel yard? This is a desert. It takes a lot of water and effort to maintain a lawn, so lawns are rare. People spread out decorative stones across their yards.
My shaded veranda faces a gravel yard. I use the veranda for the first three hours of the morning as a potting shed and for a collection of potted desert plants. After that, it’s like standing before an open oven.
The complex where I live maintains a lawn in the courtyard around a swimming pool. Unfortunately, there is little shade in the courtyard. Only a few apartments open onto the lawn facing north. Those residents do actually sit on their shaded patios during the day. It is, after all, a dry heat!
Otherwise, I go from an air conditioned home into an air conditioned car into an air conditioned store and back again. My car is under a shed, and many shopping plazas have sheds over their parking lots. So the cars can breathe.
I do walk in the early morning during the first hour after sunrise. The day starts at about 80 degrees after cooling down all night.
Now consider that the weather does turn humid during the summer. Cool moisture blows in from the Gulf of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez (the Gulf of California). Somehow, the clash between cool, moist air and the overheated ground breeds afternoon thunderstorms. Meteorologists call these storms monsoons, and July and August are the monsoon season in the U.S. Southwest and north-central Mexico. The rain is welcome. The heat and humidity have to be tolerated.
A dry heat? You can’t always get what you want.