KUSA-We aren't a rainforest by any means, but Colorado does experience a regular monsoon during the summer. But just what is the North American Monsoon?
Like any monsoon, ours is a seasonal wind pattern. A lot of people think that the word "monsoon" means drenching rain, but that isn't the definition at all. A monsoon is a steady wind pattern.
Places where the prevailing wind changes with the seasons are said to have monsoon winds. For instance the famous summer monsoon winds in parts of India and Bangladesh that bring huge rainstorms, are balanced by a winter monsoon that is a dry wind blowing off of the Asian continent.
In the southwestern United States, including Colorado, the summer monsoon begins when high pressure along the East Coast sets up a slow-but-steady wind pattern that crosses the Gulf of Mexico then curves northward into the western deserts.
Humidity rises and combines with heat and mountains to kick off thunderstorms in many parts of the region.
The strength of the monsoon varies each day, and even some seasons are stronger than others (like the active 2011 summer monsoon) so daily thunderstorms are not always a guarantee.
But the slow movement of the storms and tremendous amount of rain they contain often combine to create flash flooding conditions in those places where thunderstorms develop.
In Colorado the summer monsoon can form any time from late June into the middle of August. The seasonal wind can even pause for a couple of weeks, leading to dry conditions across the state in between periods of daily thundershowers.
While this weather pattern is known by many different names, its been officially labelled the North American Monsoon by research meteorologists.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)