Arizona Monsoon Season


A large dust storm rolled in early July 2014 through Phoenix. Photo courtesy of @Hikeaz vis Instagram.

If you have traveled through the southwest United States between June 15th and September 30th you may have experienced monsoon season. According to a monsoon is caused by warm air creating surface low pressure zones that in turn draw moist air from the oceans. Arizona winds usually come from the west, but shift to a southeasterly wind in the summer, bringing moisture, most often from the Gulfs of Mexico and California. The wind shift and increase in moisture combine with the surface low pressure from the desert heat to produce storms in a cycle of “bursts” (heavy rainfall) and “breaks” (reduced rainfall). Before the rain, the wind shift can trigger dust storms known as haboobs, which appear as loose swirling walls of dust several hundred feet high. The word monsoon is derived from the Arabic word mausin meaning “wind” or “season”.

I am originally from Colorado and had never experienced a weather pattern quite like a monsoon. One of my favorite parts of the monsoon season are all the amazing sunrises and sunsets you can capture. Besides the beautiful skies during monsoon season Arizonans also get relief from the heat due to all the rain received.



Here is a monsoon storm that I photographed in Tucson.

Even though I find monsoon season to be beautiful there are many dangers that come with the monsoon. When the winds pick up during a storm across the desert a dust storm usually begins to roll in. It can happen within minutes and does not always allow enough time to seek shelter. Fortunately a severe weather alert will most likely come through on your cell phone to give you a warning. If you are in an area that does not allow you to find shelter these are the recommended safety precautions to take according to the National Weather Service:

-If dense dust is observed blowing across or approaching a roadway, pull your vehicle off the pavement as far as possible, stop, turn off lights, set the emergency brake, take your foot off of the brake pedal to be sure the tail lights are not illuminated.

-Don’t enter the dust storm area if you can avoid it.

-If you can’t pull off the roadway, proceed at a speed suitable for visibility, turn on lights and sound horn occasionally. Use the painted center line to help guide you. Look for a safe place to pull off the roadway.

-Never stop on the traveled portion of the roadway.

-Turn off your headlights! In the past, motorists driving in dust storms have pulled off the roadway, leaving lights on. Vehicles approaching from the rear and using the advance car’s lights as a guide have inadvertently left the roadway and in some instances collided with the parked vehicle. Make sure all of your lights are off when you park off the roadway.

-During threatening weather listen to commercial radio or television or NOAA Weather Radio for Dust Storm Warnings. A Dust Storm (or Sand Storm) Warning means: Visibility of 1/2 mile or less due to blowing dust or sand, and wind speeds of 30 miles an hour or more.

Besides the potential danger monsoon season poses to motorist, it can also be dangerous for pets. Scottsdale Animal Healthcare’s Dr. Casuccio recently did an interview on ways to keep your pets safe during the monsoon season. Knowing the risks the storms can cause your pet may help save their lives. Click here to see what Dr. Casuccio has to say.

For all the ways to stay safe during monsoon season visit .


The beauty of a dust storm captured by @Hikeraz via Instagram.

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