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Old 06-29-2007, 11:50 AM
 
Location: Tucson, AZ
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Okay, this may sound like a dumb question, but what are monsoons really like? Just a bad thunderstorm or is there hail, tornadoes, etc. involved?

We're moving next month and will probably arrive in Tucson at the peak of Monsoon season. I know not to drive through flooded areas, so i don't need that advice. I'm just curious as I'm a bit of a weather geek and I'm hoping they'll be neat to experience first hand.
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Old 06-29-2007, 12:39 PM
 
Location: Tucson, AZ, USA
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Just a bad thunderstorm! Haha, no, no tornadoes- I don't think that's really a natural disaster that you have to worry about too much in the southwest. =)Tucson is WAY to hot in the summer to have hail- the heat is what brings the monsoons. It IS really cool to watch! Fantastic lightning! And the smell is amazing!
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Old 06-29-2007, 12:51 PM
 
Location: SE Arizona - FINALLY! :D
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A google search (under the "video" tab) on "Tucson Moonsons" will bring up several interesting and informative videos of what to expect. Hope to see some of this activity my self when we head down there at the end of July (for 2 weeks):

tucson monsoons - Google Video

Ken
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Old 06-29-2007, 03:32 PM
 
Location: Tucson, AZ
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Thanks for the input and not treating me like a complete moron.

I'm excited to get out there... the countdown is on - 29 days!!
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Old 07-09-2007, 12:39 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque
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mdtoaz asks:

> what are monsoons really like?

A typical day in monsoon season starts off clear and
cloudless to almost cloudless.

Starting about 10 am, the weather starts to go from warm
to hot (allow for some variation in time and definition
of "hot") and you will see small, puffy clouds forming
across the sky. If you are near significant mountains,
they will form more readily above those.

Hang Gliders, BTW, like these because they mark updrafts
where they can gain altitude and stay up indefinitely.

Later on in the day around noon, these 'puffies' will start
to merge and form larger clouds.

A couple of hours after that, the clouds become significant
and will climb high in the sky and form 'anivil head' clouds
called cumulonimbus. By 3 pm, there can be rain in places.

Note that some cumulonimbus clouds can attain altitudes of
well over 30,000 ft (higher than any mountain in the world).

By 4-6 pm there will be threatening weather visible all over,
but your particular location could be anywhere from blue sky
to dark grey clouds overhead.

When the rain comes, it can come in 'buckets' in your
neighborhood, yet be dry just a half mile away. If you are
in the 'dry' place, then you will experience high winds
because the rain cools the air and causes it to fall from
higher altitudes and then run along the ground as it spreads.

If the system is big enough, you can have hail in July when
it is 110 degrees that can seriously damage automobiles and
hurt like heck.

Looking at a really big monsoon storm, it can appear like
a solid grey wall where no light comes through except the
frequent cloud-to-ground lightning.

I have been out walking in the flat desert where there were
multiple lightning strikes happening all over once every 30
seconds or so from hundreds of yards away to a mile or so
with no rain yet falling.

The monsoon is a weather system that covers the whole of
UT, AZ, NM, and CO, but unlike systems out of the Gulf of
Mexico that flood TX and parts East of there, you can almost
always see some blue sky somewhere even when you are getting
hammered by the rain.

Monsoons can bring anything from hot, humid air to refreshing
coolness, albiet temporary in the Lower Sonoma Desert.

Monsoon season is also marked by regular, beautiful sunsets.
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Old 07-09-2007, 04:48 PM
 
Location: In the Wild Wild West
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If you're speaking of the "Sonoran" desert, where is the upper and middle parts of the Sonoran desert if Tucson is the lower area?
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Old 07-09-2007, 10:16 PM
 
Location: Red Rock, Arizona
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mortimer View Post
When the rain comes, it can come in 'buckets' in your neighborhood, yet be dry just a half mile away.
I remember one time when I was playing golf during the monsoon season and a big storm rolled in. We were out in the middle of the fairway and got soaked by the rain. Just a couple hundred yards away, there was a guy sitting in his backyard, dry as a bone, reading his newspaper.
It's funny how the rain can come out of a single cloud concentrated in one area. Kind of like the old "Tumbleweeds" cartoon where the cowboy would have the one cloud following him around and raining just on him.
That reminds me of another thing during the monsoons. You'll start to see a lot more tumbleweeds rolling around when there's a lot of wind.
Tumbleweed, "Russian thistle" - DesertUSA
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Old 07-10-2007, 07:56 AM
 
Location: Albuquerque
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nitram asked:

> If you're speaking of the "Sonoran" desert, where is the
> upper and middle parts of the Sonoran desert if Tucson
> is the lower area?

Albuquerque is in the Upper Sonoran Desert. I would classify
Las Cruces as middle and Santa Fe as at the edge of the
Upper. Flagstaff is clearly in the Transistion zone.
----------------------------------------------------------
earlier, I wrote:
M> Lower Sonoma Desert

I guess I was thinking of that nice Zinfandel that was waiting
for me at home when I wrote that .....
----------------------------------------------------------
# The life zones ... with characteristic plants, are as follows:
#
# Lower Sonoran (low, hot desert): Creosotebush, Joshua Tree
# Upper Sonoran (desert steppe or chaparral): Sagebrush,
Scrub Oak, Colorado Pinyon, Utah Juniper
# This system has been criticized as being too imprecise.
# For example, the scrub oak chaparral in Arizona shares
# relatively few plant and animal species with the Great Basin
# sagebrush desert, yet both are classified as Upper Sonoran.

I generally think of the ending of the Lower Sonoran Desert
as being where it is too high for the Saguaro cactus to grow.

"middle" is from there to where you start seeing the Pinon/Juniper trees.

Upper Sonoran ends where the Ponderosa start to grow.

Note that Mt Lemmon has not only lower, middle, upper Sonoran
desert on it's flanks, but also has Transition and Canadian zones.

These zones get lower as your latitude increases and are also
found at different levels on the same mountain(s) as you move
around it from N to S and E to W.

However, weather patterns can also alter things. Look at the
difference between Flagstaff and Santa Fe. Santa Fe sits at
a higher latitude, but similar altitude. However, Flagstaff has
a cooler climate than Helena Montana.
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Old 07-10-2007, 01:54 PM
 
Location: In the Wild Wild West
44,635 posts, read 61,645,680 times
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Sonoran Desert google...
The Sonoran Desert is an arid region covering 120,000 square miles in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California, as well as most of Baja California and the western half of the state of Sonora, Mexico. Subdivisions of this hot, dry region include the Colorado and Yuma deserts. Irrigation has produced many fertile agricultural areas, including the Coachella and Imperial valleys of California. Warm winters attract tourists to Sonora Desert resorts in Palm Springs, California, and Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.

This is the hottest of our North American deserts, but a distinctly bimodal rainfall pattern produces a high biological diversity. Winter storms from the Pacific nourish many West Coast annuals such as poppies and lupines, while well-developed summer monsoons host both annuals and woody plants originating from the south. Freezing conditions can be expected for a few nights in winter.

Trees are usually well developed on the desert ranges and their bajadas. Often abundant on these well-drained soils are Little-leaf Palo Verdes, Desert Ironwoods, Catclaw and Saguaro.

The understory consists of three, four or even five layers of smaller woody shrubs. Tall chollas may occur in an almost bewildering array of species. The alluvial lowlands host communities of Desert Saltbush, wolfberry and bursage. On coarser soils, Creosote Bush and bursage communities may stretch for miles. Where the water table is high, Honey or Velvet Mesquite may form dense bosques or woodlands.

Other species are restricted to alkaline areas. Stream sides may be lined with riparian woodlands composed of Arizona Ash, Arizona Black Walnut, Fremont Cottonwood and various willows, with a dense understory of Arrow-weed, Seepwillow and Carrizo. The Sonora Desert is rich in animal life as well, with many species in all groups derived from tropical and subtropical regions.

The western part of the Sonora Desert (sometimes called the "Colorado Desert") is closer to the source of Pacific storms and is noted for spectacular spring flowering of ephemerals when there is winter-spring rainfall. (This phenomenon is not limited to here.) However, the western portion is relatively depauperate, lacking many of the species such as the Saguaro that depend on good summer rainfall.


Approximate DesertUSA Boundaries: Bordered on the west by Borrego Springs, and San Gorgonio Pass in southern California, on the north by Interstate 10 in California and Interstate 40 in Arizona, on the east by Arizona's U.S. Route 191, south to the tip of Baja California, Mexico.


Maybe you were thinking of Chiuhauan Desert when speaking of areas east of AZ?
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Old 07-10-2007, 05:12 PM
 
Location: Albuquerque
5,548 posts, read 16,085,640 times
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nitram corrected (me):

> Maybe you were thinking of Chiuhauan Desert when
> speaking of areas east of AZ?

Well, to tell the truth, I guess I was not thinking, actually.

It appears I was so eager to write about the life zones, that
I neglected to mention that the Upper Sonoran life zone I was
referring to is *in* the Chihuahuan Desert like the Candian
zone is *in* the Sonoran Desert, Chihuahuan Desert, etc.

Most maps I have seen don't show Albuquerque to be in
the Chihuahuan Desert, but many descriptions place it there.
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