THE NORTH AMERICAN MONSOON - SOUTHWEST UNITED STATES
I first moved into the New Mexico high desert some years ago during the start of the monsoon season. Having come from water-rich Minnesota, I didn’t really fully understand its importance.
I vividly recall sitting in an office in full of people and hearing the first drops of rain hit our metal roof and then getting progressively louder and faster.
One by one, each person in the office got up and walked outside until the entire office was standing under the awning staring, silently, at the rain as it fell and the air turned sweet with a strange earthy perfume I had never smelled.
This ritual was repeated every time it rained for the rest of the summer.
Come the next year, after four nearly cloudless months, I was in the office as the first monsoon rains began. Without even thinking about it I walked right outside and stared at the rain just like everyone else.
The North American Monsoon, otherwise known as the Mexican Monsoon or the Arizona Monsoon, is a pronounced weather pattern change over the Southwestern United States. It generally starts in early July and continues through mid-September.
This seasonal pattern change brings moisture up from the Gulfs of California and Mexico. This departure from the normal west to east flow decreases rain on the Great Plains and increases rain on the east coast. But most importantly, it brings the rains that bring the mountains and the deserts of the Southwest to life.
The coming of the monsoon ends the dry and clear skies of May and June and begins a daily pattern of slowly building giant clouds until the early afternoon and then, if you are lucky, it might rain a little.
But more often than not it doesn’t.
When it does, it lifts everyone’s mood at once and it becomes the most fascinating thing you have ever seen.
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At-Large Guide to the West James Orndorf was born in Minnesota, but knew at a very young age that the future lay out west. He is currently photographing and illustrating outside of Durango, Colorado. You can see what he’s up to at inlandwest.tumblr.com and @inlandwest
But y’all. This actually happens. People walk outside and stare at the rain. And it is glorious