Flooded! When Monsoons Suck up Hurricanes

January 29, 2016
Hurricane Odile

If you are in Texas and the Southwest, you saw weather go from drought to flooding.

Phoenix almost floated away. Austin was not only weird, but also downright watery, with 5 – 7 inches of rain. Throughout the West, people had to haul out their dusty umbrellas.

Welcome, Hurricane Odile! The remnants of this Mexican hurricane are ultimately expected to stream as far north as the Midwest.

The remnants of a Mexican hurricane are washing through the Southwest and Great Plains.

(Can you imagine anything more lost than rain from a Mexican hurricane falling in Indiana?)

If you like the rain, thank the Southwest Monsoon. (If you hate it, blame the monsoon.) This is a yearly pattern that brings summertime rain to Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and even Kansas. As the Southwestern desert heats up, hot air rises and cooler air rushes in to replace it. By July, the desert is so hot that it even sucks up air from the Pacific coast of Mexico and parts of the Gulf of Mexico! For 3 months, July, August, and September, the cooler ocean air streams into the Southwest, bringing welcome rainfall.

Click to see enlarged image.

For three wonderful months, summer rains flow into Texas, Mexico and the Southwest. Source: Ben Cook and Richard Seager, “The Future of the North American Monsoon”, NOAA

And—if there is a hurricane—the not-so-wonderful rains are poured into the Southwest as well.

This year has been a year for hurricanes in the East Pacific. As I write this, Tropical Storm Polo, the 16th storm of the season, is horsing around in the Pacific.

We have already seen waters from Pacific Hurricanes Marie and Norbert hit the West. As I write this, the waters from Hurricane Odile are flooding Texas and heading toward the Great Plains. As Texans are struggling to keep safe, they are also busy storing up the moisture. In some areas, these rains are drought busters!

The North American Monsoon sucked the rain from Hurricane Odile into the USA. Source: NOAA

My deepest sympathies go to Mexico and the citizens of beautiful Cabo San Lucas. For Texas and the Southwest, however, the rainfall is a blessing. Into each life, a little rain must fall and if you combine a monsoon and a hurricane, the rain will fall in Texas.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.