The Grand Canyon (Hopi: Ongtupqa; Yavapai: Wi:kaʼi:la) is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona.
It is contained within and managed by Grand Canyon National Park, the Hualapai Tribal Nation, and the Havasupai Tribe. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area, and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery. It is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,000 feet or 1,800 metres). Nearly two billion years of the Earth’s geological history has been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While the specific geologic processes and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are the subject of debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration.
For thousands of years, the area has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves. The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon (“Ongtupqa” in Hopi language) a holy site and made pilgrimages to it. The first European known to have viewed the Grand Canyon was García López de Cárdenas from Spain, who arrived in 1540.
Weather in the Grand Canyon varies according to elevation. The forested rims are high enough to receive winter snowfall, but along the Colorado River in the Inner Gorge, temperatures are similar to those found in Tucson and other low elevation desert locations in Arizona. Conditions in the Grand Canyon region are generally dry, but substantial precipitation occurs twice annually, during seasonal pattern shifts in winter (when Pacific storms usually deliver widespread, moderate rain and high-elevation snow to the region from the west) and in late summer (due to the North American Monsoon, which delivers waves of moisture from the southeast, causing dramatic, localized thunderstorms fueled by the heat of the day). Average annual precipitation on the South Rim is less than 16 inches (35 cm), with 60 inches (132 cm) of snow, the higher North Rim usually receives 27 inches (59 cm) of moisture, with a typical snowfall of 144 inches (317 cm), and Phantom Ranch, far below the Canyon’s rims along the Colorado River at 2,500 feet (762 m) gets just 8 inches (17.6 cm) of rain, and snow is a rarity.
Temperatures vary wildly throughout the year, with summer highs within the Inner Gorge commonly exceeding 100 °F (37.8 °C) and winter minimum temperatures sometimes falling below zero degrees Fahrenheit (−17.8 °C) along the canyon’s rims. Visitors are often surprised by these potentially extreme conditions, and this, along with the high altitude of the canyon’s rims, can lead to unpleasant side effects such as dehydration, sunburn, and hypothermia.
Weather conditions can greatly affect hiking and canyon exploration, and visitors should obtain accurate forecasts because of hazards posed by exposure to extreme temperatures, winter storms and late summer monsoons. While the park service posts weather information at gates and visitor centers, this is a rough approximation only, and should not be relied upon for trip planning. For accurate weather in the Canyon, hikers should consult the National Weather Service’s NOAA weather radio or the official National Weather Service website.
The National Weather Service has had a cooperative station on the South Rim since 1903. The record high temperature on the South Rim was 105°F on June 26, 1974, and the record low temperature was −20°F on January 1, 1919, February 1, 1985, and December 23, 1990
Smoke from prescribed fires on the south rim, as seen from Yavapai Point, April 2007.
The Grand Canyon area has some of the cleanest air in the United States.:p.5-2 However at times the air quality can be considerably affected by events such as forest fires and dust storms in the Southwest.
What effect there is on air quality and visibility in the Canyon has been mainly from sulfates, soils, and organics. The sulfates largely result from urban emissions in southern California, borne on the prevailing westerly winds throughout much of the year, and emissions from Arizona’s copper smelter region, borne on southerly or southeasterly winds during the monsoon season. Airborne soils originate with windy conditions and road dust. Organic particles result from vehicle emissions, long-range transport from urban areas, and forest fires, as well as from VOCs emitted by vegetation in the surrounding forests. Nitrates, carried in from urban areas, stationary sources, and vehicle emissions; as well as black carbon from forest fires and vehicle emissions, also contribute to a lesser extent. :p.26, 49-51
A number of actions have been taken to preserve and further improve air quality and visibility at the Canyon. In 1990, amendments to the Clean Air Act established the Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission (GCVTC) to advise the US EPA on strategies for protecting visual air quality on the Colorado Plateau. The GCVTC released its final report in 1996 and initiated the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP), a partnership of state, tribal and federal agencies to help coordinate implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.
In 1999, the Regional Haze Rule established a goal of restoring visibility in national parks and wilderness areas (Class 1 areas), such as the Grand Canyon, to natural background levels by 2064. Subsequent revisions to the rule provide specific requirements for making reasonable progress toward that goal.
In the early 1990s, studies indicated that emissions of SO2, a sulfate precursor, from the Navajo Generating Station affected visibility in the Canyon mainly in the winter, and which if controlled would improve wintertime visibility by 2 to 7%. :p.C-2,C-6 As a result, scrubbers were added to the plant’s three units in 1997 through 1999, reducing SO2 emissions by more than 90%. The plant also installed low-NOx SOFA burners in 2009 -2011, reducing emissions of NOx, a nitrate precursor, by 40%. Emissions from the Mohave Generating Station to the west were similarly found to affect visibility in the Canyon. The plant was required to have installed SO2 scrubbers, but was instead shut down in 2005, completely eliminating its emissions.
Prescribed fires are typically conducted in the spring and fall in the forests adjacent to the Canyon to reduce the potential for severe forest fires and resulting smoke conditions. Although prescribed fires also affect air quality, the controlled conditions allow the use of management techniques to minimize their impact.
Grand Canyon tourism
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the world’s premier natural attractions, attracting about five million visitors per year. Overall, 83% were from the United States: California (12.2%), Arizona (8.9%), Texas (4.8%), Florida (3.4%) and New York (3.2%) represented the top domestic visitors. Seventeen percent of visitors were from outside the United States; the most prominently represented nations were the United Kingdom (3.8%), Canada (3.5%), Japan (2.1%), Germany (1.9%) and The Netherlands (1.2%). The South Rim is open all year round weather permitting. The North Rim is generally open mid-May to mid-October