KUSA – July marks the beginning of the monsoon season in Colorado … but if you want to seem smart about this whole thing, don’t call the thunderstorms that often come with it a “monsoon.”
Why? Here’s a basic explanation.
There’s nothing that special about a monsoon itself. It’s a regular, seasonal weather pattern in Colorado that is typical during July, August and September.
In the summer, the North American monsoon transports water vapor into the western part of the U.S. from the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean. The mountainous terrain and hot days transform this moisture into thunderstorms.
The thunderstorms themselves? Those aren’t the monsoon – they’re just a symptom.
Want to get more technical and sound even smarter when talking about the monsoon? Of course you do.
Here’s a more detailed explanation courtesy of the ridiculously smart 9NEWS Meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen.
During the summer, the jet stream recedes to the north as high pressure builds over the Great Plains and Midwest. This is called the subtropical ridge.
Air flows clockwise around this ridge, pulling mid and upper-level moisture up from the south.
From there, the hot summer sun heats up an area of the desert southwest called the Mexican Plateau. This creates a semi-permanent low pressure at the surface called the Monsoon Low.
Winds that flow counter-clockwise around the Monsoon Low reverse the winds from the north in the winter and spring ... and make them go south.
This creates a conveyer belt of moisture with the potential to bring drought-busting rains to regions that need it.
The North American Monsoon will come to the southwest every summer, but it pays a visit to Colorado frequently too.
This year’s monsoon was late, but it’s finally here … and creates periodic surges of moisture that can lead to epic storms.
But are those storms a monsoon? If you’ve been paying attention, you’re already shaking your head “no.”