We had a heat advisory here today in Arizona. Because some people might not know that in July in Arizona it gets hot. It was 110 today, and we had a record low: 91. It was the warmest low for this date.

We’re now into the monsoon season, which means between now and the middle of September our humidity jumps from about 15% to 30%, and we get amazing thunder and lightning shows each night.

Now, for your meteorology lesson of the day. The monsoon season officially begins when the dew point stays at 55 or above for three consecutive days. This happened on July 4 this year, three days before the “official” start date of July 7. This reflects the seasonal shift in wind patterns, brining up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. We generally get 2-3 inches of rain during the monsoon season, but last year we got hardly anything.

Despite all the cool special effects in the sky at night, there are some drawbacks. We get dust storms—also known by the Arabic term “haboob”, which is way cooler sounding than dust storm—preceding thunderstorms. Check out my previous post on the topic. What happens is rain-cooled air pours down from the high country into the desert like a small cold front, pushing a wall of dust in front of it and forcing the hot and humid air up into the atmosphere creating thunderstorms above the Valley.

Sometimes, however, we get downbursts or microbursts where the air can thrust downward at a rate exceeding 100 MPH. I’ve seen it take out a whole line of telephone poles like they were matchsticks.

The coolest thing about all of this is that it’s pretty random. You never know where a dust storm, microburst or down pour will happen. TV shows get interrupted for weather updates, and we get those emergency broadcasts. I’d only ever seen one of those when I lived in California, and that was after an earthquake. Here, I couldn’t count how many I’ve heard.

Makes life interesting. And if I can figure out how to get any pictures of lightning with my digital camera, I’ll post them. Don’t hold your breath, though.