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Here’s the Scoop on the 2017 Monsoon Season

What’s wet, windy and hot all over? Monsoons! We hear of them hitting the Southwest often, but what are they exactly? In general, a monsoon is a season with hot temperatures and abundant moisture that happens in the Southwest, when moist air pushes north from the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California. You can get strong winds, flooding, dust storms, even dry lightning from June to September.

What strikes me the most about monsoon season is how you can get so much needed moisture into such an arid region in a matter of months. It’s the main time when parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah get much of their rainfall for the entire year. According to the University of Arizona, the region receives more than 40% of their annual rainfall.

I spent two years at Arizona State University and it was during this time that I experienced my first monsoon season. Now if you haven’t been to the desert in general, I think it is beautiful, with the acacia and mesquite trees and cacti dotting the landscape. However, I was definitely not prepared for what was to come! During my time in Arizona, I experienced an incredible dust storm, or haboob. Until then, I had just seen the wet and humid side of monsoons, but the haboob was mind blowing. I remember watching it from a distance, and with it, the visibility dropped dramatically. Gone from view were the acacia and mesquite trees and cacti I enjoyed out in the distance, instead all you could were swirling waves of dust. It was terrifying and awe-inspiring at the same time.

With above normal temperatures expected this summer for the Southwest, we could potentially see more storms develop with this years monsoon season. Many of these storms can be potent, with very heavy rain, plenty of lightning, and strong winds possible. So treat these incredible storms with care, while appreciating the beneficial rain they bring to keep the desert landscape blooming. And who knows, maybe all it takes is going through a haboob to get you hooked on monsoon season too!

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9 Comments


  1. Arizona’s monsoon season is here. This year severe forest fires have washed away vegetation that will hold water in the soil. This increases the danger of flash flooding. Flash floods are very fast and unexpected. One in AZ has already claimed the lives of 10 family members. DO NOT drive into flooded washes and pay attention to weather forecasts.

  2. Hi @liana-brackett! 🙂 Thank you for a very well-written and enjoyably informative report. In late August 1978, on my way from my hometown of Virginia Beach, VA to southern CA (a VERY long story, the details of which I will spare you 😀 ), I happened to travel across NM and AZ. The monsoon season that you refer to here was under way at the time, and I can still recall seeing some truly beautiful skies out that way back then, including an especially spectacular isolated thunderstorm, just before sunset, that was parked alongside a mountain in AZ.

  3. @stormeagle, I hope that Little Big Town, a country music quartet, writes a weather song entitled “Monsoon” to the tune of their smash hit “Pontoon”. That would get the group a #wxemmy for sure. 😀

  4. A haboob, an intense dust storm, occurs frequently in arid regions around the world. A haboob forms when a storm collapses and begins to release precipitation. During that period, wind directions reverse, gust outward from the storm and generally gust most stalwartly in the direction of the storm’s travel.
    Haboobs can also form when a strong or severe storm weakens significantly and releases a microburst, a minuscule downdraft that moves opposite a tornado. Haboobs travel between twenty and sixty miles per hour and approach without warning.
    @liana-brackett, in case you were curious, haboob is Arabic meaning, “blasting or drifting”. #haboob101 😀

  5. Great write up on monsoons, Liana! I wish I could see a haboob in person! I follow these monsoon storms when they happen on TWC. The pictures of haboobs are so cool but I live in the midwest so I don’t see them. How often would you say these storms reach severe limits? I know they can occasionally reach severe limits but I think more about the heavy rain and flooding with monsoons.

    -Brian

  6. @liana-brackett, during monsoon season, all of us should treat those incredible storms like they are severe storms, earthquakes, etc. Moreover, our best bet is to put safety first during monsoon-type weather. It strikes us instantly if we are not careful. #monsoonsarenothingtomesswith 😀

  7. We had frequent dust storms when I lived in Egypt. When it does rain, very rare, it was like mud coming off the trees. The rain dusted the trees off.

    1. When it comes to dust storms during a monsoon, I have pensive advice. Put on a breathable mask, wear goggles or glasses, strap on a helmet, and take cover immediately. There is no need to breath that filthy, dirty dust into our lungs. Otherwise, we would have an asthma attack. #monsoonprotection 😀