Monsoons In Tucson Arizona
Monsoons Occur Every Year In Tucson AZ – Here’s Why!
One of the frequent questions hear from our clients is “What are monsoons?”
The word monsoon originates from the Arabic word mausim, which means season. For centuries, traders on the waters off the Arabian and Indian coasts observed that dry northeast winds in the winter suddenly turn to the southwest during the summer. That change brought beneficial yet torrential rains to the Asian landmass.
These wind shifts are the mechanism for the monsoons in southern Arizona. For a most of the year, low level winds of Tucson’s Sonora desert regions tend to blow from the land toward the sea. Sea being either the Gulf of California or Gulf of Mexico.
The official period for monsoons in Tucson AZ is from June 15 to September 30. During this period prevailing winds switch from westerly to southeasterly. That wind shift brings more moisture in from the Gulf of California (mostly) and Gulf of Mexico. Increased moisture means a higher dew point.
Most of Tucson’s summer days begin clear and very warm. As the day progresses, giant clouds develop and tower high into the sky and above the mountains. As the clouds rise, their temperatures cool. Cooler temperatures combined with higher relative humidity creates the possibility for rain. Rain that often dumping huge quantities of rain in a very short time in a very concentrated area. This summer rain period are the monsoons!
These “cloud bursts” will also be accompanied by strong winds, lightning and flash flooding. The flash flooding occurs as rain comes off the mountains and is collected in washes in the foothills. As the water accumulates, it becomes deeper and moves faster. Real Fast!
The Desert Thrives
The summer monsoons in Tucson AZ, also trigger the appearance of many animals. For example, many amphibians emerge above ground and begin their hasty breeding period.
These small creatures also take advantage of large colonies of new ant and termites. Dinner is served!
The Tucson monsoon rains also stimulate many “summer” wildflowers and shrubs in bloom throughout the desert .
It Doesn’t Rain Every Day
The monsoon season does not produce thunderstorms every day. Instead, patterns known as “bursts” and “breaks” will be created.
During the “bursts”, weak disturbances in the upper atmosphere act to focus thunderstorm activity over the state for a period of a few days to more than a week.
Occasionally, however, the Bermuda high will become a bit stronger and develops over northwestern Mexico. This leads to “breaks” in the monsoon, where the southerly winds decrease and the atmosphere becomes much less likely to allow thunderstorms to develop.
This leads to a appreciable decrease in thunderstorm activity, and may last from a day or two to close to a week. This cycle of “bursts” and “breaks” will continue from the onset of the monsoon circulation, until the time when cold fronts begin to move across the state of Arizona (typically during the month of September), which returns our winds to a westerly or northwesterly direction.
This weather conditions change leads us into the fabulous fall period and pleasant winters that Tucson AZ is noted for.
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