Seasons in the Desert, A Naturalist’s Notebook

Illustrations: Kirk Caldwell

Chronicle Books, 1998


Susan Tweit’s notebook is a wonderful addition to the library of all of us who love the desert. — Tony Hillerman

Put your other concerns aside for a moment, for this book is an event you won’t want to miss. Inhale it’s fragrances, listen to its songs! — Gary Paul Nabhan, Coming Home to Eat

From Spring:

Spring does not creep across the desert on little cat’s feet; nor does it come with frolicking lambs and sweet breezes. Spring—the season beginning with the spring equinox and ending with the summer solstice—can bring an explosion of vibrant and colorful life; it can be a succession of frigid snowstorms; it can blow in dry and hot on gritty winds. How spring comes to the various deserts depends on the latitude and rainfall pattern of each, and on the weather of any given year.

The North American deserts are watered by two major storm tracks: the cold, soggy storms that roar east across the continent in winter form the Pacific Ocean, and the warm, wet fronts that circle north and west in summer from the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. Whether spring is relatively green or not in the various deserts depends on which storm track they are under. The three deserts that lie farthest west—the Great Basin, Mojave, and Sonoran—are the closest to the Pacific Ocean and thus reliably receive winter moisture. Their springs are relatively wet. The southernmost of these three deserts—the Mojave and Sonoran—explode with life in wet springs, the formerly bare soil covered by a carpet of annual plants. Spring in the Chihuahuan Desert, by contrast, is a dry time, since moisture from the Pacific rarely reaches this easternmost desert. …