Brain Food: The Southwest’s Wildflower ‘Super Bloom’

May 11, 2017

A rare “super bloom” is rolling across the Southwest this spring. A late, wet El Niño pattern has caused an explosion of wildflowers from the Pacific Ocean, to the Mojave Desert, to the mountains of northern Arizona. Brian Klimowski is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff. 


“We had the winter we thought we were going to have last year, you know, with the big El Niño and all the precipitation,” he says. “Well, that came this year. I wish I could tell you exactly what happened, because we really didn’t really have any strong signals one way or the other coming into the winter.” 

California had its most abundant early wildflower season in over a decade—you could see it from space. In northern Arizona, Native flowering plants began showing themselves in late February, creating carpets of tiny blooms underneath pine trees and along the Mogollon Rim and Verde River. But Klimowski says rising temperatures are drying up desert flowers fast.

“What we see is the flowers just start moving to higher and higher elevations. We’re going to see more and more, up here in Flagstaff for instance, as we progress through May,” he says.

A secondary bloom will come to the Southwest in mid to late summer with the arrival of the monsoon.