Saturday, June 30, 2012

Trump: 'Roberts' birth certificate is fake'

By Andy Borowitz
NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – Controversy swirled around John Roberts today as billionaire Donald Trump claimed that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had a fraudulent birth certificate.

Mr. Trump said that these are the findings of a team of personal investigators he retained just after ten o’clock
Thursday morning.

According to these investigators, Justice Roberts, who claims to have grown up in Indiana, was actually born in a mud hut in a tiny rural village in Kenya.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump claimed, “So-called John Roberts’ father was a village witchdoctor who forced all of the villagers to submit to his shamanic treatments, whether they wanted them or not.”

While most of the mainstream media seemed skeptical of Mr. Trump’s allegations, Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel called them “very concerning,” adding, “It’s time that the American people learned the truth about John Hussein Roberts.” 

Fireworks highlight of Payson's 4th

 Photo by Bill Huddleston

(Gazette Blog Editor's note: Beneath all the bluster and hoopla in the town's official press release below is a schedule of events for the 4th of July.  Dive in and see if you can find it.)

Nestled in the largest Stand of Ponderosa Pine forest in the world and surrounded by the Mogollon Rim to the North, the Mazatzal Mountain Range to the West and the Granite Dells to the East – Payson is the perfect place to enjoy a good old fashioned 4th of July celebration.  Locals and visitors alike will enjoy Payson’s patriotic salute to our country and the men and women who have given all to make America the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Enjoy a spectacular fireworks display and fun for the whole family.

The fun really kicks off on Wednesday July 4th starting at 8 a.m. with a Patriotic Ceremony which will showcase a patriotic solute to those men and women who have made this a free country.

From 1-4 p.m. the Town of Payson will conduct its annual family games and friendly competition. Families will enjoy everything from sack races to egg toss to tug of war. Finally we will conduct the 4th Annual Payson Arizona Foot Races.

Starting at 7 p.m. and going to 9 p.m. the amphitheater bandstand will come alive with live music by the Technicolors Band. This band performs a variety of great music for all ages. 

Finally, what we have all been waiting for, the “BOOM”.  At approximately 9 p.m. one of the most spectacular fireworks shows in Arizona will kick off. Surrounded by the cool confines of Green Valley Park and its three lakes, this venue is a picturesque setting for a spectacular night of fun, bright lights and large boom!  Special thanks to the Digitell Verizon Wireless, Northern Gila County Sanitary District, the Town of Payson’s Water Department and the Payson Regional Medical Center for providing this year’s fireworks display!

Due to the popularity of this event free shuttle busses will run from the Payson High School to Green Valley Park. On July 4, starting at 5:30 pm, a shuttle bus will pick you up at the Payson High School administration parking lot (off of McLane rd.) and transport you to Green Valley Park. After the show the buses will return you to your car.

Directions: From Highway 260 & 87 - go west on Longhorn Road and turn left on McLane Rd.  Follow signs to the Payson High School Administration parking lot.  This will be the main pick up and drop off point.

Come be our guest in Payson – Arizona’s Cool Mountain Town on 4th of July and enjoy patriotism, great weather, outdoor activities and hometown fun for the whole family!

For more information about this event, please contact Cameron Davis, Town of Payson – Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director at 928-474-5242 x7 or email: or visit

Smoke north of Rim from new Canyon Fire

Canyon Fire update (#1)

Location: Approximately 15 miles northeast of Blue Ridge Reservoir near Highway 87 in the Jacks Canyon area.  About 70 percent of the fire’s perimeter is active, and burning toward the northeast in an area mostly populated by juniper.

Size: 620 acres

Reported:  7:22 a.m. Friday, June 29

Cause:  Lightning

Current Resources:  Two engines, one crew and a helicopter with water bucket.  Approximately 40 personnel currently, but tomorrow another crew will arrive, bringing total personnel to about 60.

Structures Threatened:  None

Evacuations:  None

Closures:  None

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kill the golf courses, let the bears live


By Jim Keyworth
Gazette Blog Editor

One of the quirks of living in Arizona is that too often decisions are made that are really, really stupid. When two such decisions happen in close proximity we have a harmonic convergence of stupidity, and we have an obligation as journalists (at least some of us do) to point that out.

First up, the Town of Payson decides to sell some of its precious groundwater reserves to water local golf courses used primarily by the very rich who contribute little or nothing to the local economy.  Besides the fact that golf courses are a stupid idea in the West, it's especially stupid here in Payson where, according to Salt River Project, our groundwater supply is overtaxed. 

And think about it: whose water is the Town of Payson selling?  Why, it's the excess water it gets from the Tower Well in Star Valley, a reminder of the great water heist Payson water guru Buzz Walker pulled off a few years ago after he promised Star Valley residents he would never take their water.

Up next on the stupid meter is a news item in today's (Friday, June 29) Arizona Republic.  According to the article in Valley & State, none of the three bears killed by Arizona Game & Fish happened to be the bear(s) responsible for several attacks on campers (which resulted only in superficial injuries.)  Unfortunately the innocent bears are now dead.

It's their forest folks, and camping in it comes with some inherent risks.  The answer is not to shoot first and test later, but that's been AZGFD's modus operandi for many years.  

Come on guys.  Kill the golf courses and let the bears live.  And many thanks to our local newspaper for the responsible stand it didn't take on these two issues.

Romney: 'Obamacare worst idea I ever had'

June 28, 2012

Vows to repeal own law

By Andy Borowitz
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – Just minutes after the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney slammed the Court, calling the law “the worst idea I ever had.”

“I vow to repeal this law on my first day in office,” he told a crowd at a campaign rally.  “Until then, I will work tirelessly to make people forget that I used to totally love it.”

At the White House, President Obama greeted the news of the Court’s decision in muted fashion: “I haven’t been this pumped since I smoked bin Laden.”

Dissenters in the 5-4 decision included Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote, “The only medical procedures the government should pay for are forced transvaginal ultrasounds and exorcisms.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also had harsh words for the healthcare law, telling reporters, “Under Obamacare, you will be forced to marry a gay doctor.”

But perhaps the most negative appraisal came from Speaker of the House John Boehner: "This is a dark day for America. If we are forced to have healthcare, it's only a matter of time before we have education."

Mesa del joins Payson as Cragin recipient

Salt River Project’s Board of Governors has approved an agreement with Payson Water Co. to sever water rights from the C.C. Cragin Reservoir, formerly Blue Ridge Reservoir, and transfer them for use to the Mesa del Caballo water service area near Payson.

The agreement is the first of what potentially could be several deals between SRP and smaller Rim Country communities to bring water from C.C. Cragin Reservoir.  It is also one of the many benefits that resulted from the passage of the Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act of 2004, which authorized up to 3,500 acre-feet of water from Cragin Reservoir to be used in northern Gila County.

The town of Payson secured 3,000 acre-feet of Cragin water in 2008 through an agreement with SRP.  The remaining 500 acre-feet of water has been designated as a future water solution for the smaller Rim communities.  Deliveries to Mesa del Caballo are anticipated to be made via the town of Payson’s future pipeline, which will move Cragin Reservoir water to Payson’s water treatment plant adjacent to Mesa del Caballo.  Both the pipeline and water treatment plant are scheduled to be operational in the spring of 2015.

The agreement allows for the severance and transfer of an average of 70 acre-feet per year of Cragin Reservoir water, with a maximum annual delivery amount not to exceed 82 acre-feet.

Steve Westwood, a Water Rights & Contracts senior analyst, said SRP has been working with a number of water providers and community water systems since 2005 to identify opportunities to establish agreements for C.C. Cragin water.

SRP has also been very concerned, he said, that continued well pumping on the Verde and Salt watersheds to meet growing water demand is negatively affecting the water supply of SRP shareholders.

“The opportunity to protect our shareholder’s water rights, supplement water supplies in the northern Gila County region and achieve water settlements to provide certainty for a long-term sustainable water supply and resolve water-rights claims has been a major focus of our efforts,” said Westwood.

“This agreement sets the stage for a framework for other small water companies to partner with SRP to ensure an adequate and renewable water supply and resolve water-right claims.”

The northern Gila County region is located within the Salt and Verde watersheds, which provide the water supply for SRP shareholders.  The region, which includes Payson, is a future growth area where surface water is fully appropriated and groundwater is overused, Westwood said.

SRP’s acquisition of the Cragin Reservoir in 2004 identified the town of Payson and other Rim communities such as Mesa Del Caballo as potential customers.  SRP operates and maintains Cragin Dam and Reservoir for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

 “This agreement clears the way for a reliable, long-term water supply for Mesa del Caballo, which for many years has had repeated water-shortage issues due to unsupportive geology and underperforming wells,” said Robert Hardcastle, president of Brooke Utilities Inc., the parent company of Payson Water Co., a private regulated utility.  “This agreement also provides the community certainty by resolving any water-right conflicts with SRP.”   

Payson Water Co.’s agreement with SRP generally covers the allocation and access of water from Cragin Reservoir, while the delivery and treatment of the Cragin water will be made through another agreement with the town of Payson.

SRP is the largest provider of water and power to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Smoke clears as Poco 80% contained

Thursday, June 28 

YOUNG, Az. – Fire officials got an aerial view today of the 11,950 Poco Fire northeast of Young, Arizona, and increased its containment to 80 percent

“Smoke has dissipated from the town of Young, Payson, and the Mogollon Rim communities.  We are still seeing smoldering in the center of the deep canyons within the Tonto National Forest,” says Incident Commander Trainee Andy Mandell, Central West Zone Interagency Type 3 Team.
All around the perimeter, the Fort Apache Interagency Hot Shot crew and Prescott National Forest Hot Shots gathered downed trees and limbs, feeding them into chippers to remove fuel.  Much of this work takes place adjacent to Forest Road 512 (Young Road) which reopened today.  “We are seeing residents traveling the road again and ranchers working cattle, so we’re asking our firefighters and the public to drive with considerable caution,” Mandell emphasizes.

Water tenders and an aircraft were released from the fire today; the Central West Zone Interagency Type 3 Team resources remaining on the fire consist of three engine and two hot shot crews, for a total of 100 personnel.

The Poco Fire has not exceeded 11,950 acres.  At the height of the human-caused incident, 768 personnel were stationed in Young who traveled from Arizona, California, Indiana, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and Wisconsin to protect central Arizona communities.  Six community meetings were held within eight days in the towns of Young, Forest Lakes, Colcord, Heber, and Payson and two Fire Camp tours conducted.  Five firefighters were injured; no structures were burned; estimated costs are $9 million.

For more information regarding forest recreation sites and fire restrictions, please contact the Tonto National Forest at 602 225-5200, or check online at

Right winger calls it 'a 21st Century Dred Scott'

  (Manassas, Virginia)  The following is a statement by Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of, regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare:  

“The 2010 Tea Party wave election was all about the repeal of Obamacare and the individual mandate.  If millions of Americans were enraged by the passage of Obamacare before the Supreme Court decision upholding the individual mandate was announced, their outrage will reach revolutionary fervor now that the mandate has been upheld.

“Conservatives believe with every fiber of our being that the plain language of the Constitution and our other founding documents, to say nothing of American history, demanded that the Supreme Court strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional.

“Today, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court of the United States--the body the Framers of the Constitution created to protect the citizenry from tyranny--has chosen to join infamous courts of the past, such as the Taney Court that made the
Dred Scott v. Sandford decision finding that slaves had no rights and the Fuller Court that ruled to institutionalize Jim Crow discrimination in Plessy v. Ferguson in stripping Americans of their freedom.

“Those infamous decisions were eventually reversed, as this one should be.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a stark reminder that one presidential appointment to the Supreme Court is all that stood between our freedom and the tyranny that will grow ever greater now that the individual mandate has been upheld.

“If there was any reminder needed of what is at stake in this presidential election, the fractured vote upholding the mandate is it.

“There are now 130 days until Election Day.  The Supreme Court has spoken, and the real work of protecting America from tyranny is now in the hands of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.”

NOTE TO EDITORS:  Richard A. Viguerie pioneered political direct mail and has been called “one of the creators of the modern conservative movement” (The Nation) and one of the “conservatives of the century”(Washington Times).  He is the author of Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.

Fox News: Egypt follows U.S. in electing Muslim

June 24, 2012
By Andy Borowitz

CAIRO (The Borowitz Report) – In its historic first democratic election, Egypt has followed the lead of the United States in electing a Muslim president, the Fox News Channel reported today.

Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, noted that in electing Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptians were echoing the decision of American voters in 2008.

“The similarities between Obama and Morsi are striking,” he said.  “Both come from radical political parties, and both have unfamiliar, foreign-sounding names.  One key difference, of course, is that Morsi makes no secret of being a Muslim.”

Mr. Hannity predicted that the two Presidents could have a close working relationship going forward: “I’m sure President Obama has already called Morsi to congratulate him, one Muslim brother to another.”

Mr. Hannity said that the election of Mr. Morsi may be just the latest result in a trend that augurs well for Mr. Obama’s own re-election hopes: “In recent months, Egypt elected a Muslim, France elected a Socialist, and Kenya elected a Kenyan.”

In other Egyptian news, a hospital spokesman said
today that former President Hosni Mubarak, declared “clinically dead” just days ago, continues to make a remarkable recovery: “Today he was able to eat, say a few words, and wire four billion dollars to Switzerland.”

'Obamacare' saved her mother's life

Two years ago, my mother, Rhonda, lost her job. Then she lost her health insurance. She needed major surgery, but was so worried about bankrupting our family with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills that she waited. She waited until she couldn't hold off any longer without risking her life.
The Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") came along just in time. It saved her life, and has already helped many more Americans get desperately needed health care. And it happened because we fought for it in Congress, online, on the phones, and in the streets.
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare and its protections, my mother—along with millions of other Americans—can feel confident that they'll be able to get the care they need. And that makes me very thankful.
Let's join together in thanking President Obama for his work to pass Obamacare and protect the lives of millions of Americans.
Under the Affordable Care Act, my mother was able to afford a state health insurance plan that included the highest-ranked surgeon in the state. She had her surgery and is almost completely recovered. There are thousands of stories like hers out there, showing how Obamacare literally saves lives.
My mom is joined by 86 million Americans who have gotten free preventive care through the Affordable Care Act, 105 million who no longer need to worry about lifetime benefits caps, and 17 million children who can't be denied care because of pre-existing conditions.
I'm glad to be a part of the millions who came together to fight for the Affordable Care Act, and to have a president who stood up for health care for all Americans.
Jen Job

Supreme Court upholds individual mandate

By Jennifer Haberkorn
28 June 12

he Supreme Court upheld most of President Barack Obama’s health care law Thursday, ruling that Congress did not overstep its power by requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four liberal justices in the ruling, which says Congress had the authority to impose the law’s individual mandate under Congress’s taxing power.

There was one rebuke to the Obama administration: The court ruled that the states can reject the law’s Medicaid expansion.

Still, the rest of the ruling is a surprise victory for the Obama administration, which faced a tough grilling from the court — including from Roberts — during the oral arguments in March. It guarantees that most of the two-year-old law will stay in place, avoiding the massive disruption to the health care industry that would have resulted if the mandate had been struck down.

"Simply put, Congress may tax and spend," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "This grant gives the federal government considerable influence even in areas where it cannot directly regulate."

"The federal government may enact a tax on an activity that it cannot authorize, forbid or otherwise control,” Roberts wrote.

In a stinging dissent, Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that the other justices wanted to wipe out the entire law. "In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety,” he wrote.

In the ruling, Roberts wrote that the court rejected the idea that the mandate regulates people under existing commercial activity. But the court ruled that Congress can impose mandate under the taxing power.

"It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce,” Roberts wrote.

"The question is not whether that is the most natural interpretation of the mandate, but only whether it is a 'fairly possible' one,” Roberts wrote. "The government asks us to interpret the mandate as imposing a tax, if it would otherwise violate the constitution. Granting the act the full measure of deference owed to federal statutes, it can be so read."

The ruling came as a surprise, as conservative justices appeared skeptical of the law during oral arguments in March. They seemed most skeptical of the so-called individual mandate, which requires Americans to have health insurance.

The justices did rule against another key part of the law, saying the law’s Medicaid expansion — which starts in 2014 — tranforms the program into something it wasn't designed to be.

"The court today limits the financial pressure the secretary may apply to induce states to accept the terms of the Medicaid expansion,” the ruling states. “As a practical matter, that means states may now choose to reject the expansion; that is the whole point. But that does not mean all or even any will."

But Thursday’s ruling now settles the big constitutional question once and for all: Congress can require people to have health coverage.

The court’s decision allows the law’s more popular provisions to survive, like guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions starting in 2014 — the same year the mandate is scheduled to take effect.

The administration took a gamble when it asked the court last fall to hear the case more quickly than necessary. That risk appears to have paid off, providing Obama with validation before the November election. But it will also fire up Republicans who plan to campaign on a pledge to repeal the law in Congress.

Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed on the trail to repeal it.

Yet if the ruling heats up the politics, it may also speed up the implementation, especially in states that have stalled setting up the pieces of the law until the Supreme Court ruled. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for instance, vetoed a bill setting up a state exchange in May, citing the pending court decision.

This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 10:19 a.m. on June 28, 2012.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Scalia's dissent says Brewer didn't win


Letter to the Editor:
"How you know you didn't win on SB1070"

To Jan, Russell, John and David and all the other's trying to spin the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

If you are a conservative and Antonin Scalia writes the dissenting opinion in a Supreme Court case of yours, you didn't win.

Jim Manos

You don't have to get it from us.  You can get your own subscription to the Republic by calling 1-800-332-6733.  It's the best newspaper value in the Rim Country.

$65 million in Rx savings for AZ Medicare

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, seniors and people with disabilities in Arizona have saved a total of $65,803,605 on prescription drugs since the law was enacted.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also released data today showing that in the first five months of 2012, 12,981 people with Medicare in Arizona saved a total of $8,921,509 on prescription drugs in “donut hole” coverage gap for an average of $687 in savings this year.

“Thanks to the health care law, millions of people with Medicare have been paying less for prescription drugs,” said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “The law is helping people with Medicare lower their medical costs, and giving them more resources to stay healthy.  By 2020, the donut hole will be fully closed thanks to the Affordable Care Act.”

Nationwide, since the Affordable Care Act was passed, more than 5,254,000 people with Medicare have saved over $3.7 billion on prescription drugs in the donut hole.  This includes new data for the first five months of 2012, when more than 745,000 people with Medicare saved an average of $651 on the prescription drugs, for a total of $485.3 million in savings.

These savings are automatically applied to drugs that people with Medicare purchase, after they hit the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap or “donut hole.”

People with Medicare who hit the donut hole in 2010 received a one-time $250 rebate.  In 2011, people with Medicare began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 7 percent coverage of generic drugs in the donut hole.  This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent.  Coverage for both brand name and generic drugs in the gap will continue to increase over time until 2020, when the coverage gap will no longer exist.  

For more information on how the Affordable Care Act closes the Medicare drug benefit coverage gap “donut hole,” please visit:

For State-by-State information on the amount of savings people with Medicare have received in the donut hole, please visit:

Real patriots pay their fair share

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog
26 June 12

ecently I publicly debated a regressive Republican who said Arizona and every other state should use whatever means necessary to keep out illegal immigrants. He also wants English to be spoken in every classroom in the nation, and the pledge of allegiance recited every morning. "We have to preserve and protect America," he said. "That's the meaning of patriotism."

To my debating partner and other regressives, patriotism is about securing the nation from outsiders eager to overrun us. That's why they also want to restore every dollar of the $500 billion in defense cuts scheduled to start in January.

Yet many of these same regressives have no interest in preserving or protecting our system of government. To the contrary, they show every sign of wanting to be rid of it.
In fact, regressives in Congress have substituted partisanship for patriotism, placing party loyalty above loyalty to America.

The GOP's highest-ranking member of Congress has said his "number one aim" is to unseat President Obama. For more than three years congressional Republicans have marched in lockstep, determined to do just that. They have brooked no compromise.

They couldn't care less if they mangle our government in pursuit of their partisan aims. Senate Republicans have used the filibuster more frequently in this Congress than in any congress in history.

House Republicans have been willing to shut down the government and even risk the full faith and credit of the United States in order to get their way.

Regressives on the Supreme Court have opened the floodgates to unlimited money from billionaires and corporations overwhelming our democracy, on the bizarre theory that money is speech under the First Amendment and corporations are people.

Regressive Republicans in Congress won't even support legislation requiring the sources of this money-gusher be disclosed.

They've even signed a pledge - not of allegiance to the United States, but of allegiance to Grover Norquist, who has never been elected by anyone. Norquist's "no-tax" pledge is interpreted only by Norquist, who says closing a tax loophole is tantamount to raising taxes and therefore violates the pledge.

True patriots don't hate the government of the United States. They're proud of it. Generations of Americans have risked their lives to preserve it. They may not like everything it does, and they justifiably worry when special interests gain too much power over it. But true patriots work to improve the U.S. government, not destroy it.

But regressive Republicans loathe the government - and are doing everything they can to paralyze it, starve it, and make the public so cynical about it that it's no longer capable of doing much of anything. Tea Partiers are out to gut it entirely. Norquist says he wants to shrink it down to a size it can be "drowned in a bathtub."

When arguing against paying their fair share of taxes, wealthy regressives claim "it's my money." But it's their nation, too. And unless they pay their share America can't meet the basic needs of our people. True patriotism means paying for America.

So when regressives talk about "preserving and protecting" the nation, be warned: They mean securing our borders, not securing our society. Within those borders, each of us is on our own. They don't want a government that actively works for all our citizens.

Their patriotism is not about coming together for the common good. It is about excluding outsiders who they see as our common adversaries.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including "Locked in the Cabinet," "Reason," "Supercapitalism," "Aftershock," and his latest e-book, "Beyond Outrage." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


June 30, 8 a.m. -  5 p.m.
July 1, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Where: Community Center grounds, Pine, AZ.

Directions: We are 13 miles north of Payson or a scenic 90 minute drive from Phoenix, centrally located in “the heart of Arizona”. We are on Highway 87 in downtown Pine.

Come to our homegrown, Made in America, two-day Arts & Crafts Festival in the scenic mountains of Pine and Strawberry. Over 80 juried art booths with unique hand-crafted items, food booths, pancake breakfast, delicious Navajo tacos, Library Friends Book Sale and MORE– fun for the entire family. Pure air and spectacular scenery amidst ponderosa pines and friendly people. Visit our antique shops, old farm-houses, quaint restaurants, and specialty stores, or take a hike with spectacular views of the Rim above and the mountain ranges below. Event sponsored by the Pine-Strawberry Arts & Crafts Guild. Please visit the Arts & Crafts Guild Boutique to meet local artists, see their work and sign the Guest Book. Proceeds from this event help to support our community.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monsoon forecast: A case for optimism

rain clouds

Monsoon rains are a welcome guest in the Southwest, helping to suppress scorching temperatures and delivering nearly half of the yearly rainfall for parts of Arizona. (Photo by Zack Guido)

The official monsoon forecast for the Southwest looks to be more vigorous than average, with a strong beginning and end. The season begins in July and runs through September.

The North American monsoon, the fickle phenomenon that is the summer rainy season in the Southwest, is forecast to be more vigorous than average, with a strong beginning and end.
During most years, the July through September rainy season forecast for Arizona and New Mexico is no better than a coin flip. But not this summer, when increasing confidence has caused forecasters to paint a more optimistic picture – good news for a region that has been caught in the throes of severe drought for more than 18 months.

"The ecosystem is so tuned up to summer moisture that an early, consistent monsoon can stimulate a robust growing season and provide short-term drought relief," said Mike Crimmins, a climate extension specialist at the University of Arizona.

Crimmins, along with other UA and national experts, share the methodologies and challenges in forecasting the upcoming monsoon season. 

Forecasting challenges
Forecasting the monsoon is no easy task. Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center, known as the CPC, mine 41 different analysis tools, from global climate models that incorporate atmospheric physics to historical relationships between rainfall and the state of El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a natural force that influences climate and weather around the globe.

In May, conflicting evidence in many of these tools created doubt about the strength and onset of the 2012 summer rains, resulting in an "equal chances" forecast that the monsoon would be above, below or near average.

"I tried hard to put something on the map because we know most people think [equal chances] is a non-forecast," said Jon Gottschalck, head of forecast operations at the CPC. "When I was making [the forecast in May], the signals were all over the place."

Uncertainty in the monsoon is the norm. The CPC has stamped an equal chances forecast on the Southwest in 12 of the last 17 years. Part of the forecasting challenge lies in geography: Arizona and New Mexico sit on the northern fringes of the core North American monsoon region, which is centered over the Sierra Madre Occidental in northwest Mexico. As a result, many climate factors come into play and cause high year-to-year and month-to-month variability. 

"Sea surface temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, snow cover in the Rocky Mountains, the state of El Niño-Southern Oscillation, dry conditions in the Midwest and tropical storm activity have all been stated to influence the monsoon during different times and places of the season," Crimmins said.

Optimistic outlooks
In June, forecast models and other analysis tools became strong enough to slightly nudge the optimism of CPC forecasters.

"Our main climate model has been doing very well in recent years and has shown some accuracy in forecasting the monsoon during the first month," said David Unger, a CPC meteorologist. "There is some indication that July will be above average, and even if the final two months are average, there is still a good chance for a wet monsoon."

It is still a cautious forecast; the odds are only slightly better than equal chances that about half of Arizona and New Mexico will get a healthy dousing. Also, the CPC model has shown little accuracy forecasting August and September with more than a 30-day lead time, and so these months remain a black box to the CPC.

"Monsoon forecasting over the season is so difficult," Gottschalck said. "July through September is a long period, and a lot can happen. Anything early on could be completely outweighed by the final two months."

Despite CPC uncertainty in much of the monsoon, a strong start favors an above average season. Another forecast, based on past summers that most resemble current and expected conditions, also bolsters this outlook.

"The bottom line is that when we look at our analog forecast, it is for a wet July, a so-so August and a wet September," said Art Douglass, professor and chair of the department of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University.

Douglass, who has been forecasting the monsoon since 1977, developed this outlook by analyzing 12 variables that span the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, including sea surface temperatures, sea level pressure, pressure levels in the atmosphere, and tropical convection.

Five summers on record –1984, 1986, 2001, 2006 and 2008 – had very similar conditions to those in June. When combined, most of Arizona and New Mexico received more than 110 percent of average during these summers.

"When you composite these years, it's a pretty optimistic forecast for rain," Douglass said.

Monsoon by month
The strings guiding Douglass' forecast are tethered to conditions in the Midwest and Pacific Ocean. Research in the late 1980s, for example, found a strong correlation between dry conditions in the Midwest, centered over Iowa, and wet weather over the Southwest and northern Mexico during the initial weeks of the summer rainy season.

"If you're interested in what's going on in the southwestern U.S., you also better be interested in what's going on in the Midwest," Douglass said. "And if you start looking at lags, it's the Midwest that seems to be behaving first."

The Midwest has been dry for the past three months, with many parts of the region receiving less than 70 percent of average. The sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have been recently warming and also favor an early and wet onset.

"This year, sea surface temperatures look nearly identical to last year," said Christopher Castro, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the UA. "This would suggest an early to average start with average to above-average precipitation from late June to early July."

El Niño also figures into the mix. Sea surface temperatures are currently near average, but many El Niño-Southern Oscillation forecasts project El Niño will develop by late summer.

During El Niño summers, conditions in August tend to be dry, Douglass said. Generally, this occurs because the subtropical jet intensifies as sea surface temperatures warm. This, in turn, pulls the monsoon high south, exposing southern Arizona and New Mexico to the dry northern side of this high.

As for September, El Niño conditions tend to increase the frequency of tropical Pacific Ocean storms, which can squeeze moist air from the Gulf of California into the Southwest. The intensifying subtropical jet and waning solar radiation also creates a conduit that helps steer storms into the region.

But there are no guarantees that El Niño will evolve in this manner, Douglass said. It's a forecast based solely on historical data.

Nonetheless, after two consecutive dry winters that sandwiched a lackluster monsoon for many parts of the Southwest, optimism is a welcome guest. If the forecasts prove accurate, the monsoon will help squelch dry conditions that have been plaguing the region.

The recent thunderstorms in southern Arizona on June 16 had a monsoon flavor, suggesting an early and strong beginning. The storms could also be a false start, as they sometimes have been in the past, proving again that the monsoon is a fickle phenomenon.

Poco Fire fading into the sunset

Late Sunday, June 24
[Gazette Blog Editor's note: With this post, the Gazette Blog will discontinue Poco Fire updates unless something unexpected happens.]

YOUNG, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona Type 2 Incident Management Team announced tonight that the Poco Fire, northeast of Young, Arizona is 65 percent contained and command transfers tomorrow to the Central West Zone Interagency Type 3 team. 
“I am very pleased with the work that our team accomplished on the Poco Fire and want to assure communities that the incoming team will continue to patrol the Poco Fire and be available for new starts,” said Incident Commander Matt Reidy.

Forest Road 512 to Young remains closed as crews patrol and mop-up around the fire’s perimeter. Local residents and visitors are advised to keep out of the fire zone and to not ride ATVs, UTVs, or quads anywhere near or in the fire zone as hazards, such as falling trees, rolling rocks, and burning stumps still exist.

On Sunday, 250 firefighters were demobilized; 150 more will depart Monday. As firefighters from the Type 2 team depart, every vehicle is inspected and sent through a “weed wash” to stop the spread of the Yellow Star Thistle weed into other communities and states. 

The Central West Zone Interagency Type 3 team assumes command at 6:00 a.m. Monday with four engines two hot shot crews, air support, water tenders, and a dozer for a total of 110 personnel stationed at the Young Community Center.  The public is now advised to contact the Pleasant Valley Ranger District at 928-462-4300 for Poco Fire updates.

At the height of the Poco Fire, 768 personnel were stationed in Young who traveled from Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and Wisconsin to protect the central Arizona communities.  Six community meetings were held within eight days in the towns of Young, Forest Lakes, Colcord, Heber, and Payson and two Fire Camp tours conducted.  Five firefighters were injured; no structures were burned.
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Poco Fire information is posted at  For more information regarding forest recreation sites and fire restrictions, please contact the Tonto National Forest at 602 225-5200, or check online at