Many people who visit Arizona are oblivious that the region is home to not four seasons but five, the fifth being monsoon season. Every July and August, the climate changes dramatically from the dry arid climate of May and June to one of humidity and seasonal rains. So when planning a vigorous vacation like hiking or backpacking through the areas that are often heavily affected by the Monsoons, just be prepared.
What and when is Monsoon Season?
The hot summer sun warms the air temperatures and causes a change in wind patterns, forcing clouds heavy with ocean rain far inland. This creates heavy rains and thunderstorms, air temperature drops and humidity increases. Monsoon season in the Southwest “officially” begins in mid-July and ends in mid-September. Storms are most common in the afternoon but they can happen at any time.
Are Monsoon Storms dangerous?
Monsoons are vital to the environment; they keep wildfires in check and provide an important water supply to the people and animals who live in the deserts. The most common hazards of monsoon storms are lightning strikes and flash floods. Hiking through any of the famous canyons, or trails requires great caution in monsoon season, but with the right preparation, monsoon weather is nothing to be scared of.
Flash floods are the biggest threat to visitors, but you can stay out of trouble by never crossing moving water either on foot or in a vehicle. It’s important to also check the weather in areas “upstream” or up the canyon from where you will be hiking. It is possible to have blue skies overhead but a canyon may still flood due to heavy rains upstream.