Arizona weather varieties are a result of semi-arid to more desert-dry micro-climates. Each desert biome has its environmental characteristic unique to its location in the state, particularly related to its elevation. As is typical of the Sonoran Desert, it doesn't rain that much.
In the Deserts of Arizona, May and June are the driest months. Often little to no rain. There is a typical winter "rainy" season. Winter storms come in from the Pacific. They can reach Arizona, and bring rain. At the same time it will often snow in the highest elevations, and sometimes even reach to the lower desert floors. Typically January, February & March see the most storms.
But keep in mind - all of this precipitation only totals just over 19 inches per yearly average. So... safe to say - not much worry about spoiling any outdoor plans. But enough to normally keep the flora & fauna essentially happy enough.
This watery data about Arizona weather is all accumulated by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. More details when you click here.
Arizona is known for its beautiful sunrises - and its beautiful sunsets...
What a sight to see, as you rise early to watch. Do you see that red sky in the morning? Remember that saying...
Red sky at morning - Sailor take warning.
Red sky at night - Sailors' delight!
It's said to predict oncoming rain storms! Does that apply here? Not necessarily so! It is the clear, clean, fresh air that causes these great photo-ops. Skeptical? Check out the scientific explanation - click here!
Be confident when you see these wonderful views... Don't worry about the weather interrupting your plans! Instead, consider checking a report...
Say the word "Monsoon" - and people usually think of Southeast Asia... torrential rains for days and days at a time. Jungles, flooding, mosquitoes attacking - no sun to be seen, rivers overflowing!
Well... Arizona actually has a Monsoon season!
The word in climateese refers to a shift in the wind patterns. The primary pattern no longer comes from the West/Northwestern areas of the Pacific. But now the prevailing winds switch more to Southerly flows, picking up tropical moisture. Then with the AZ summer heat, that combination can form some fantastic, sky-opening thunderstorms.
This all traditionally begins around mid June. And generally goes until the end of September. But officially, technically... scientifically - there must be a dew point of at least 55 degrees. Then the Monsoon thunderstorm capability has begun. Arizona weather has begun the change that many are anticipating - desert residents!
If you are so meteorologically involved, read the details when you click here.
How often will there be a Monsoon Thunderstorm? There's no way to be sure.
When I see the forecast... I look for the tell-tale high pressure circling the 4-Corner's area. (That's the spot where 4 state borders join together: AZ, UT, CO & NM). That's when the prevailing winds will pull the tropical moisture up into Arizona!
Now remember, that's my living room meteorological understanding. But it works fairly well!
Then watch the clouds build during the warmth of the day. As the air heats up. Finally more toward late afternoon the storms will begin. But sometimes, when the air really becomes saturated, the storms can become intermittent all day long.
That's when you'll want to be especially aware of the problems you could encounter. Not that it can't happen with any of the storms. For instance, rarely a "microburst" occurs - where extraordinary wind gusts accompany the beginning of a storm. Occasionally you hear about this on the news during Monsoon season, when it causes some property damage to homes in an area.
Take a look at this monsoon Arizona weather footage captured on film - quite amazing! A work of art for sure - I believe the beauty and power of the monsoon season can be appreciated...
During Monsoon Thunderstorms the lightning strikes come at a fast and furious pace. The National Severe Storms Laboratory talks about 3 basic types of lighting, and during these storms you'll witness all 3.
The light show types are the strikes that go through the clouds across the sky! Spread out like wiring circuitry throughout above you. Then there's the sheet type lightning within the cloud that illuminates the whole cloud.
No real worries about these in the clouds. They are the majority of lightning strikes... 5 to 10 times more than those that hit the ground according to the NSSL. These are also wonderful to observe... the light show of the storm!
Maybe you've heard the one about - don't stand under a tree in a lightning storm. Difficult to do on a hiking trail amongst trees - when a sudden Monsoon comes in! The NSSL calls a cloud to ground strike a "CG" - and says we don't see it until the charge hits the ground. It generates a return charge of current to the cloud that makes it visible to us. It flickers as the current goes to the cloud in "strokes."
Unbelievably - that current we see is only a couple of inches wide! It's just so bright, it looks larger and is visible for many miles. The charge from the cloud attracts the closest ground charge. So usually it's something tallest in the area. Think of a tall tree, a tall building, a telephone pole, etc.
Here in the Sonoran Desert, it can often be a Saguaro cactus. One afternoon, during a Monsoon thunderstorm, I saw a strike hit the Saguaro in our front yard. That was about 30 yards from our front door! Kinda scary!
The practical advice if a Monsoon storm comes in...
First be aware of the possibility. Are they predicting possible Monsoon thunderstorms? Might this be a day to choose an activity for indoors or at least not out in the wilderness? Arizona weather is not something to disregard - just use your knowledge of it intelligently.
Some applicable recommendations from the National Lightning Safety Institute, if you're caught out in an unexpected storm:
Whatever the Arizona area weather forecast tells you, it will be a great day to plan your activities. You just cannot go wrong with a trip to Tucson, Sedona, Tombstone, a Ghost Town, or to some other surrounding area. The weather will be quite cooperative...
Or at least you'll be able to choose to drive just a little for a change in your mini-climate! That's how the Arizona weather can cooperate with you for the best trip possible.
You'll notice that when Monsoon storms are in the area, you may seem to "smell" rain before it begins. That is actually the scent of the Creosote bush. It gives off this aroma when it is wet. People begin to associate it with the smell of rain.
Since Monsoon thunderstorms tend to be intermittent throughout the afternoon - you'll see the sun peeking through as well. The ideal circumstances for a rainbow. Well, not just "A" rainbow - but often a double rainbow as well. A beautiful sight!
The clouds themselves, various shades of gray, dark blue, black - against the vibrant blue sky peeking through! Shards of sunlight gleaming through slits in the clouds. Rain pouring down over there, and again way over there - then on top of you! It's just a wonderful weather experience.
So even if you can't get out for an outdoor adventure that one day. Because the Arizona weather is forecasting imminent Monsoon thunderstorms. Well, enjoy the experience, maybe from a covered patio or veranda - I know you will!