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“Monsooning!” Is It Really Just Heavy Rain?

Photo Credit: Twitter/NWSAlbuquerque

It seems like the go-to phrase to describe heavy rain is to say “it’s monsooning”. Granted, the monsoon season in the southwest does create a lot of rain for these areas, using the word “monsoon” to describe a heavy rain event isn’t completely accurate.

According to the American Meteorological Society’s Meteorological Glossary a monsoon is seasonal shift in winds that aids in the development of geographic specific wet seasons.

In the southwest part of U.S. — during the dry months in the winter — prevailing winds are out of the north, preventing moisture to make it’s way to that location. In the summer months those winds shift from northerly to a southerly flow, originating out of Mexico and Southern Pacific Ocean. This type wind pattern funnels tons of moisture over parts of the Desert Southwest and Intermountain West.

When coupling warmer temperatures and abundant moisture, it makes it much easier for torrential rain showers to form.

This summer monsoon has been nothing short of impressive. Just a few nuggets from the National Weather Service in Albuquerque tells the story the best: 7th wettest July on record with more thunderstorms in the forecast in the next few days, plus readings of a 65° dewpoint! For the desert that’s pretty uncommon.

So to say it’s “monsooning” in the southwest is a fair assessment…for now. Just make sure it’s put in the right context.

Meteorologist Thomas Geboy

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