TUCSON –The blazing heat. The sounds. The sights. Intense lighting. And of course, the wonderful smell of creosote.
All part of what makes the monsoon such a special time of year across the desert southwest. Annually, Tucson sees 85 percent daytime sunshine, ranking fifth in the entire nation.
The monsoon brings us half of our annual rain. In fact, Tucson sees more thunderstorm days in a typical year than in New York City.
So how does this happen in our sunny corner of the Sonoran Desert? It all begins with the word monsoon which literally means a seasonal shift in the winds.
Most of the year our winds come from the west. The cool air from the Pacific Ocean isn’t an efficient machine to evaporate the ocean water and bring rain to Arizona.
We all know we’re very hot in June as strong high-pressure sits on top of us.
But way down south and to the east plenty of thunderstorms are flaring up in Mexico and Texas.
By the beginning of July, this strong area of high pressure moves near the four corners and the “monsoon flow” shifts from the east or southeast.
This helps bring in sufficient moisture from the places it’s been storming back to us.
By the beginning of September, the jet stream pushes our monsoon high away and we return to our westerly wind regime ending our two to three month stretch of summer storms.
As much as we enjoy and rely on this annual rain, the intense heat before the monsoon arrives brings with it some very real dangers.