Arizona’s monsoon season is a hidden gem that surprises visitors every year! That’s right, Arizona has a monsoon season. Despite the hot and arid desert, each year from early July to mid-September, high-pressure systems are pushed up from Southern Mexico. During this time, Flagstaff will get as much as half of its annual precipitation! The monsoons occur due to the rise in temperature during the summer months causing the winds to shift and draw moisture from the Mexican Gulf. These winds will carry that moisture throughout most of Arizona.
Good or bad?
The monsoons in Flagstaff are extremely important as the diverse wildlife and plant life heavily rely on any and all water that comes through this dry area. Flagstaff is a high-altitude island surrounded by low deserts in every direction. That high altitude provides enough of a drop in temperature to support this diverse ecosystem as long as our yearly monsoons continue. From 2017-2020, the monsoons did not arrive in full force and the effects of that can still be seen as you transition from the Ponderosa to the Piñon and Juniper. This transitional zone is often the first place you start to see the effects of drought. Below live the desert plants, able to survive drought, and above the high forest that survives thanks in part to greater snowfall and spring snowmelt. The transitional zone can, at times, behave more like the desert or the forest, and the plants that live there must adapt accordingly. The piñons and junipers are impressive plants but even they have their limits. That being said the torrential downpours can cause their share of issues.
Monsoons in Town
The monsoons aren’t all beautiful and life-giving. For the residents of Flagstaff, the monsoons can cause their share of problems. Though all locals understand the necessity of rainwater, i.e. Lake Powell, piñons, and junipers. There are quite a few neighborhoods that fear the monsoon season. Stocking up on sandbags and flood insurance, the water can often rush down the mountainsides and right into town. This issue is exacerbated by increasing wildfires in recent years. Fewer trees mean less to slow the rushing water and fewer root systems to absorb standing water. Fires can even cause soil to become hydrophobic meaning it will not absorb any water, only increasing water runoff. Flagstaff made national headlines in 2021 due to a viral video of a Prius floating down a river that used to be a road.
Will the Monsoons Ruin your vacation?
Short Answer: Most likely not. Monsoon rains at the Grand Canyon can make some of the most beautiful scenes on Planet Earth. Though the rains can become outright downpours, they typically don’t last long. If you are looking to explore some slot canyons such as Antelope Canyon, the rains will occasionally shut them down. Though this does not happen frequently, we are always on the lookout for flash flood warnings in areas like these to ensure we don’t put any of our guests in harm’s way! The monsoons also offer a break from the relentless heat in areas to the north and south of Flagstaff!
Curious about the weather? Check out what NOAA says for your trip HERE.
Give us a call, we are happy to talk to you about the our tours during monsoon season. Don’t hesitate to ask us questions, we are happy to help!