Mercury mining in the Phoenix Mountains

This story comes from the archives of the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources which has now been absorbed into the Arizona Geological SurveySee full paper here.

“In December of 1916, Sam Hughes, a Phoenix resident, discovered cinnabar deposits in the area now known as Dreamy Draw. Cinnabar, a mercury sulfide, had been discovered earlier that year in the area. Near his largest deposit, the Rico Mine, Sam Hughes erected a retort furnace, built a cabin, and sunk a main shaft and water well. Hughes, working alone, would fill an ore bucket, climb 100 feet of ladder to the surface and then hoist the ore bucket using a hand windless. In 1925 the U.S. Bureau of Mines reported that, “the bottom of the mine is damp, the temperature in the face of the drift is high, and the ventilation is poor.”  Approximate location is at the “A.”


Total production from the mine is reported to be 65 flasks (4,972 pounds).

“Mercury, also known as quicksilver, is the only metal that is liquid at ordinary temperatures. Its chief uses are in drugs and chemicals. It is also

used in mercury-vapor lamps, power-control switches, thermometers, barometers, and in dental preparations. Mercury is found in only a few minerals; most commonly, cinnabar, a mercuric sulfide (HgS). The color of cinnabar generally is vermilion-red. Mercury in the Phoenix Mountains was in the form of cinnabar.”

An appendix to the main report has some environmental and health information about mercury.

“The two types of mercury most likely to be found in the Dreamy Draw area are elemental mercury, (the “quicksilver” most of us have seen in thermometers and thermostats), and mercuric sulfide, also known as cinnabar. Elemental mercury may have been deposited in the Dreamy Draw area as a result of the refining and transport process during the early part of the 20th century. These deposits were probably short lived due to elemental mercury’s propensity to evaporate at temperatures greater than 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Elemental mercury also readily forms alloys (amalgamates) with most metals except for iron and readily combines with sulfur at room temperature. Elemental mercury combined in this manner forms a tight bond and is essentially immobile in the landscape and biologically unavailable. If ingested in the unamalgamated, elemental form, mercury is poorly absorbed (<0.01%)  in the stomach and intestinal tract. Once ingested, elemental mercury also has a relatively short half life of 60 days and is eliminated in the urine, feces and by exhalation. Cinnabar is even less biologically available and environmentally mobile than elemental mercury, due largely to it’s low solubility in water.”


Here is what the site looks like today:


Urban heat island effect on temperatures, a tale of two cities

The urban heat island effect (UHI) is the phenomenon that cities are usually much warmer than surrounding rural areas, especially at night. The main cause of UHI is that in cities, the land development, concrete and asphalt, absorbs heat during the day and gives it up during the night. Often, proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) have claimed that the rising night-time temperature is proof of an enhanced greenhouse effect due to carbon dioxide emissions.

In this post, we will compare the temperature history of the Phoenix metropolitan area with that of Maricopa, AZ, a small rural town about 25 miles south of Phoenix (see map). The data come from the National Weather Service (NWS) in a report dealing with UHI and precipitation.

Map-maricopa-az-300x253NWS compares temperatures of Phoenix and Maricopa for the period 1961 to 2007. During that time the population of Phoenix grew from about 726,000 to over 4 million. Maricopa grew from less that 1,400 to 40,000.

NWS says “The mechanisms which lead to the creation of an urban heat island (UHI) have been studied for nearly a century and are well understood….The effects of the UHI are most pronounced during the summer (June-July-August) months.”

NWS first compares the average daily high temperatures in summer for Maricopa and Phoenix. They note that there is little difference in the two data sets.


NWS then compares the average summer low temperatures and we see a large divergence with the Phoenix temperatures much warmer than rural Maricopa.


NWS attributes this temperature difference to UHI. The steady rise in both data sets could reflect the increasing UHI in both places. If the difference were due to an enhanced global greenhouse effect, why is there a divergence, especially when high temperatures are similar?

 NWS notes that “no upward trend was found in the maximum temperatures, and in fact, the urban temperatures were consistently 0 to 4ºF cooler than the rural station. The hypothesized reason for this is the “oasis effect”, where solar energy is expended on evaporating water from an unnaturally moist surface in the urban areas due to irrigation activities.”

Many temperature stations are located in urban areas with the consequence that they report artificially higher temperatures. These high temperatures are averaged (or homogenized) into regional data sets that then get reported as more “global warming” than actually occurs. And that is one reason why 50% of warming claimed by IPCC is fake.

See also:

Warmer nights no proof of global warming

More on the Haboob dust storm that covered Phoenix

The National Weather Service and AccuWeather both have post-mortems on the massive dust storm that swallowed Phoenix on July 5, 2011.

Haboob Phoenix

 AccuWeather says, “The dust storm was estimated to reach a peak height of at least 5,000 to 6,000 (about a mile) with an aerial coverage on the leading edge stretching nearly 100 miles, according to the National Weather Service. The storm traveled at least 150 miles, much farther than the average 25 to 50 miles that dust storms typically travel.” (See report and videos here. and another report and videos here.)

The National Weather Service provides a report and charts here. Some excerpts:

The Setup

Strong to severe thunderstorms developed east of Tucson, AZ during the afternoon hours of July 5, 2011. The storms intensified as they progressed west into the Tucson Metropolitan Area, producing downburst winds in excess of 70 MPH (110 KPH). Aided by gravity (Tucson is approximately 1500 ft/460 m higher than Phoenix) and additional downbursts from the parent storms, these strong outflow winds proceeded to race off to the northwest, with the leading edge moving at 30 to 40 MPH (45 to 65 KPH). By 630 PM (0130 UTC) the first calls came in to NWS Phoenix that a large wall of dust was approaching the Casa Grande/Eloy, AZ area, roughly 50 mi (75 km) southeast of Downtown Phoenix.

Lack of significant rain during the winter contributed to the dust storm.

The Delivery

At 7 PM MST (02 UTC) the leading edge of the massive dust storm hit the far southeast portions of the Phoenix area. The dust continued to push further and eventually through the entire metropolitan area during the next two hours….A few measured wind gusts even approached 70 MPH (110 KPH).

Background – How unusual (or usual) was this? What exactly is a Dust Storm?

Dust storms are a common phenomenon across the Sonoran Desert in the Southwest U.S. during the North American Monsoon. During an average year, generally one to three dust storms will move into the Phoenix area – predominantly from the southeast. Across all of Arizona, over 100 dust storms have been reported in the past 10 years according to NCDC Storm Data. While records of most widespread, most intense, largest, etc., dust storms are not kept, NWS meteorologists that have worked in Phoenix for almost 30 years have said this was one of the most significant dust storms they have experienced.

A dust storm usually arrives suddenly in the form of an advancing wall of dust and debris which may be miles long and several thousand feet high. They strike quickly, making driving conditions hazardous. Blinding, choking dust can reduce visibility to near zero in just one to two minutes, causing accidents that may involve chain collisions, creating massive pileups. Dust storms usually last only 10 to 30 minutes, though dusty conditions may remain for some time afterward.

If dense dust is observed blowing across or approaching a roadway, pull your vehicle off the pavement as far as possible, stop, turn off lights, set the emergency brake, take your foot off of the brake pedal to be sure the tail lights are not illuminated. In the past, motorists driving in dust storms have pulled off the roadway, leaving lights on. Vehicles approaching from the rear and using the advance car’s lights as a guide have inadvertently left the roadway and in some instances collided with the parked vehicle. Make sure all of your lights are off when you park off the roadway. Don’t enter the dust storm area if you can avoid it. If you can’t pull off the roadway, proceed at a speed suitable for visibility, turn on lights and sound horn occasionally. Use the painted center line to help guide you. Look for a safe place to pull off the roadway. Never stop on the traveled portion of the roadway.

See also:

Haboobs and the anatomy of a thunderstorm