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Arizona's Summer Monsoon Storm Season

Updated on June 26, 2013

Monsoon Storms in Southern Arizona

The word "monsoon", originally comes from the Arabic word, "mausim", meaning "a season". It was first used to describe the winds over the Arabian sea, which blow from the northeast for six months and from the southwest for another six months.


In Arizona, the monsoon, begins with the extreme dry heat of May and June, when temperatures rise to 100 degrees and above. As the atmosphere warms, the dry jet stream moves northward and the winds shift up from the south. This shift brings in humidity and moisture from the Sea of Cortez, and the Gulf of Mexico. Once the moist air arrives, the intense summer sun heats the air, creating columbous clouds, which lead to frequent afternoon and evening thunderstorms with a spectacular display of lightning.


Officially, the monsoon starts on June 15th and ends on September 30th.

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Average date of monsoon storms beginning - July 7

Earliest Monsoon beginning on record - June 16, 1925

Latest monsoon beginning on record - July 25, 1987

Average date of first break in monsoon - August 16

Average total number of monsoon days - 56

Greatest number of monsoon days on record - 99 in 1984

Greatest number of consecutive monsoon days on record - 72 in 1984 (June 25 - September 5)

Least number of monsoon days on record - 27 in 1962

Wettest monsoon on record (July, Aug. and Sept. rainfall) - 9.38 inches in 1984

Driest monsoon on record (July, Aug. and Sept. rainfall) - .35 inches in 1924

Average monsoon rainfall (July, Aug. and Sept.) - 2.45 inches

Tucson Lightning Storm

Causes of floods in the Southwest

Flooding causes more deaths in the United States than any other weather-related hazard except severe heat.

In Arizona and New Mexico, floods killed 57 people between 1995 and 2006, while hundreds of others have needed swift water rescues. The economic price tag is also high, costing Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah approximately $5 billion between 1972 and 2006.

The Dangers of Flash Flooding

Flash floods can occur within minutes after the onset of a rain storm. They can be deadly because water levels rise quickly and flow like rapids within minutes.

City streets become rivers, because with no drainage system, except for low-lying washes and arroyos the water has nowhere to go and cannot be absorbed into the ground.

Mountainous areas also experience flash floods, as the higher grounds funnel water into the canyons. One tragedy in 1981, killed eight people in the Sabino Canyon area in Tucson, Arizona. (my hometown)

Share the Monsoon Madness

References

- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services. 2009. Weather Fatalities. http://www.weather.gov/os/hazstats.shtml (last accessed on April 21, 2009).

- Changnon S.A. 2008. Assessment of flood losses in the United States, Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, 138:38-44.

- House, P.K. and V.R. Baker. 2000. Paleohydrology of flash floods in small desert watersheds in western Arizona. Water Resources Research, 37:1825-1839.

- Desilets, D. and S.L. Desilets. 2006. Magnitude of flash floods on the rise in the Sabino Creek. Arizona Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2006, abstract with programs: H21B-1369.

- Lenart, M. 2006. East Pacific hurricanes bring rain to Southwest. In Lenart, M. (ed.) Global warming in the Southwest: Projection, observations, and impacts. University of Arizona, Climate Assessment of the Southwest, Tucson, Arizona.

Have You Experienced a Monsoon?

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    • Ivylore profile image

      Ivylore 4 years ago

      My sister lives in Arizona and she just mentioned to me that they had a monsoon last night! She says the water looks like mini rivers passing their house when the monsoon hits. Thanks for the info!

    • caretakerray lm profile image

      caretakerray lm 4 years ago

      Monsoons, not many realize they are not just overseas.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Only if that's what they call the torrential rains in Miami. Wow, they were something!

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 4 years ago

      Every year! It washed out our road real good the other day. I know to stay out of places I am likely to get stuck, since I've been stuck twice. I never tried crossing a real wash. I know better.

    • steadytracker lm profile image

      steadytracker lm 4 years ago

      I used to live in Phoenix and I still remember those days when the storms were so powerful that they made it into the desert basin. Since the ground was so dry, it could not absorb the water fast enough and that just made being out in the storm very dangerous.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 4 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      Not really, although certain areas in Britain flood regularly, and I once lived in Australia during the rainy season. They said the rain was like a monsoon. There was not flash flood while I was there, but the city coastal road flooded while I was there. I would not have wanted to wade in it, as the river which flooded it was the Fitzroy, and it contained crocodiles!

    • MissRubyStars profile image

      MissRubyStars 4 years ago

      I look forward to monsoons every summer!

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 4 years ago

      I live in Phoenix, and am looking forward to the monsoon season. May and June tend to be so hot and dry, that the monsoon humidity and rains are welcome and refreshing by July. Here in the valley, we often get fooled by dust storms that make the air smell and feel like rain is coming, but produce no moisture. Hoping for a wet monsoon season this year. My garden needs it!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 5 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I've never experienced a monsoon although June this year in the UK was the wettest June on record, I believe, and so it felt like a monsoon at times.

    • profile image

      Matt_Lowe 5 years ago

      I didn't know that Arizona has monsoons. Learn something new everyday. It's got to be miserable there right now. I'm all the way up in Kentucky and it was 105 degrees here today! Try to stay cool!

      Thanks!

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 5 years ago

      Having lived in Phoenix and Tucson...

    • MargaritasWorld profile image

      Margarita Boettcher 5 years ago from Morrison, Colorado

      Yes! I grew up in AZ. My whole family still lives there. We try to go back every summer for a month or so. I love the monsoon season! The scary part of monsoon in Arizona is the sand that comes with most of the storms. So it is great to watch from home but you never want to get caught driving in it. Monsoon storms come fast and often without warning.This lens brings back lots of fond memories! great lens thank you:)

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 5 years ago from New York

      Not in the US - but we did have monsoons when I was stationed in Thailand with the USAF.

    • MJsConsignments profile image

      Michelle 5 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      No monsoon experiences here but I have family in Florida and good friends in Hawaii that do experience these. You've done a great job capturing some of it in a lens. Squid Angel Blessed!

    • Shorebirdie profile image

      Shorebirdie 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Yes, we have them here in soCal, too. I like the storms, but they're widely scattered and hard to predict. Flash floods are not fun. I remember one that hit Borrego Springs and flooded out the library and other stores. I also saw 6 cars caught in a mudslide about 10 miles out of town in the mountains after a flash thunderstorm.

    • Anastacia EG profile image

      Anastacia Gutierrez 5 years ago

      Love the way you captured the monsoon season in this lens. There are some great facts and powerful photos. Looking forward to more rain soon!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Many times. I grew up in Southern Arizona during the 50s and was always amazed by these beautiful storms.

    • justthejules profile image

      justthejules 5 years ago

      I have experienced many Monsoons. I am from Lake Havasu Arizona and I have to tell you that being out on that lake in the middle of a big one is thrilling! Also a little scary too at times. But being a native of LHC and being 46 means I lived through them all!

    • Whitwillow LM profile image

      Whitwillow LM 5 years ago

      I love our Southern hemisphere cyclone season.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      No, and I don't think I want to:)

      Very impressive photos!

    • XODM profile image

      XODM 5 years ago

      No but it must be cool to at least watch. Maybe not as great to be in one :)

    • themeaparty profile image

      themeaparty 5 years ago

      Cool info...I"ve heard about these. They're supposed to be pretty dramatic.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      My husband and I flew into Tucson during one of the worst lightning storms we had ever been in. The pilot didn't seem nervous at all. I thought "Any moment now, we're going to be fried." Spending one week there, we soon came to enjoy the afternoon rain and lightning shows. Your lens brings back good memories. ~~Blessed~~

    • profile image

      hansenins 6 years ago

      Better make sure you have Arizona flood insurance. With the estimates of the next couple years you are going to want to get a policy.

    • profile image

      Familyspiritkeeper 8 years ago

      That's my favorite season out there. I miss them!

    • MsSnow4 profile image

      Carol Goss 8 years ago

      Great lens I will lensroll it to my tucson lens as soon as it shows as a published lens :)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Welcome to The Nature and the Outdoors Group

      Lizzy

    • papawu profile image

      papawu 8 years ago

      I think the weather in Aeizona must be pretty similar to Nevada. I happen to be in Vegas at the moment and it is like Taezan hot out here. It's at 100 degrees today with the sun just beating down on you something unmercifull. I will be leaving this weekend though, so if they happen to get monsoons here as well, then I am certainly glad I won't be around for it. Great lens with some fascinating history and info.