Summer in the Southwest
Each year, a variety of weather related dangers affect Arizona, New Mexico
and southwest Texas, especially from late spring into early autumn.
Through a collaborative effort between National Weather Service
offices serving the states of Arizona and New Mexico, which includes
offices located in Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Albuquerque,
El Paso/Santa Teresa and Midland/Odessa, the time period from June
15th through September 30th has been defined as "The Monsoon."
A period of extreme heat is typically ongoing at its onset, which
in the coming days or weeks is followed by an influx of moisture
leading to daily rounds of thunderstorms. The heat is deadly in
its own right, causing dozens of deaths in Arizona each year. In
addition, thunderstorms present an array of hazards which often
strike suddenly and with violent force.
In Arizona and New Mexico, lightning strikes, high winds, wildfires,
tornadoes, flash flooding and extreme heat have caused an average of
10 deaths and 60 injuries along with tens of millions of dollars of
damage each year since 1995
closures, as well as power and communication outages are additional
consequences of monsoon weather hazards.
The goal of Monsoon Safety Awareness Week is to reduce the number of deaths,
injuries and property damage caused by weather related dangers that occur
during the monsoon. Through education about proper precautionary actions to be
taken, lives can be saved and property losses can be minimized.
Warning Information for Monsoon Season
Armed with Doppler radars, powerful supercomputers, advanced weather
satellites, automated weather and stream gages, and an advanced
lightning detection network, forecasters at the National Weather
Service are able to provide highly accurate severe weather warnings.
Advanced National Weather Service computer systems now allow warnings
to be generated in seconds for highly detailed areas. Those warnings
are then transmitted to the public, the media and emergency management
officials via NOAA Weather Radio, the Emergency Alert System, and
Television meteorologists play critical roles in the warning process.
They relay National Weather Service warnings to the public and provide
additional detail about the storms, what they are doing and where
they are going.
Weather Terminology — Understanding Watches, Warnings, and
- Watches mean that widespread
severe weather is possible.
- A watch means that severe weather
has not occurred yet, but weather conditions are becoming highly
volatile. Pay close attention to the weather, and tune into TV,
radio, or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts frequently.
- Warnings (Severe Thunderstorm,
Flash Flood, Dust Storm, or in rare cases, Tornado) mean that
life-threatening weather is about to occur, or has been reported.
Take action immediately.
- Flood Advisories mean heavy
rains will cause minor flooding of washes, streams, and typical
flood-prone areas. Flooding in this situation is usually not serious.
If the flooding does become life threatening, then the flood advisory
is upgraded to a Flash Flood Warning.
Warnings are not issued for lightning, mainly because most thunderstorms,
no matter how weak, produce deadly cloud-to-ground lightning.
- Tucson, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and El Paso average 6.06,
2.77, 4.12, and 5.14 inches of precipitation respectively during the Monsoon.
A plethora of rainfall statistics can be found at the
NWS Monsoon Tracker page.
- On average, over 1.5 million lightning strikes occur
in Arizona and New Mexico each year. This accounts for over 15% of all
lightning strikes in the lower 48 states. See
additional lightning statistics.
- The highest risk of tornadoes is in eastern New Mexico
during April through July, but tornadoes have been verified in most New Mexico
counties. New Mexico averages about 10 tornadoes in a year. Even though Arizona
rarely experiences a tornado, they do occur (an average of four every year).
However, thunderstorm-generated winds can exceed 100 mph over a fairly large area,
with the damage looking very much like tornado damage.