Mojave Journal: Weather Weather Everywhere

Stormy weather (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Stormy winter weather (Credit: Douglas Messier)

There’s an old saying in Mojave, which I actually made up last year, that we don’t really have weather out here, just temperatures and wind velocities. That’s largely true. Most days look pretty much like all the other days: sunny and clear with blue skies as far as the eye can see. Not for nothing did the High Desert become the premiere location for testing high-performance aircraft and rocket planes.

A visitor at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Robin Snelson)
Sometimes even tumbleweeds need a break on a warm day. (Credit: Robin Snelson)

Having grown up Back East (as they call it out here), I would have never imagined complaining about months of blue sky days and a lack of rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain and the occasional hail storm. Then again, I really wasn’t used to temperatures hovering at around 110 degrees for days at a time with nary a cloud in sight to provide shade.

But, hey. At least it’s a dry heat, which is great for those folks who like the idea of walking around inside the equivalent of a low-temperature electric oven. For the rest of us, not so much.

Old Mojave control tower on a cold winter’s day. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Then there are the winters. The combination of high winds, high altitude and even higher mountains means things can get damned cold around these parts. Snow will frequently cover the nearby peaks, and occasionally drift down into the valley below. Subfreezing temperatures are not all that uncommon in the depths of winter. A couple of winters ago, they drifted down into the single digits and froze the water pipes at my house.

This winter has seen its share of cold temperatures, but it has been, by and large, fairly mild. We had a beautiful stretch in February with daytime temperatures in the 70’s. We’ve also had plenty of what this severely drought stricken land badly needed: rain.

Stormy winter weather (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Stormy winter weather (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The rain has come in sufficient quantities, and the temperatures mild enough, that the entire desert has bloomed. There is green grass everywhere: out among the sagebrush and Joshua trees, in a backyard that’s been nothing but dirt for three years, in unused flower beds full of rocks and debris.

What lies at the end of the rainbow. Stratolaunch Systems, that's what. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
What lies at the end of the rainbow? Stratolaunch Systems, that’s what. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Whether they carry rain or not, clouds over the High Desert can produce some stunning sunsets as the sun goes down over the mountains that lie west of Mojave.

Sunset from the Mojave Air and Space Port, Oct. 30, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Sunset from the Mojave Air and Space Port, Oct. 30, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

And out at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) site out by Koehn Lake, whose normally dry surface has been covered in water this winter. That thin horizontal line you see in the right side of the photo way off in the distance is a flooded section of the lake bed.

Sunset during FAR's annual Christmas bonfire. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Sunset during FAR’s annual Christmas bonfire, Dec. 20, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Of course, we’ve had plenty of sunny and dry days this winter, which have given sunlight to the grass growing everywhere.

Draken fighter in front of the Stuart O. Witt Event Center. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Draken fighter in front of the Stuart O. Witt Event Center. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The good weather allowed workmen to install a Draken fighter donated by the National Test Pilot School in front of the spaceport’s Stuart O. Witt Event Center. As with the other aircraft publicly displayed at the spaceport, this one lacks a sign identifying it. Just take my word for it: it’s a Draken.