Monsoon Season

rain clouds over Taos Valley

Taos Valley Overlook (of course) on a recent evening

No, we’re not exactly underwater here, although Albuquerque got hit with a monster storm the other day. But there hasn’t been a summer like this for a few years.

The way it works (when it does work) in the desert southwest is, humid air sweeps up from Mexico and we have thunderstorms in the afternoon or night almost every day for a number of weeks. This can happen with such regularity that long stretches go by without our being able to sit outside at cocktail hour, plus it gets cold for summer evenings, often 60 °F or below at this altitude. The rain is rarely heavy—there are exceptions with flash floods—but the air is still so dry, whatever falls chills things down via evaporative cooling. We often put on warmer clothes about the time the sun goes down, in any case. The thing is though, once the monsoons kick in, it’s almost never hot again that year. We’ll have some upper 90s in early June, and then that’s it. No mas.

The same so-called monsoon rains aren’t quite the same in hotter places such as Tucson. I’ll probably never be there again this time of year, or ever—but it will drop from say 110 °F to 95 and you’ll get sweaty and swat mosquitos while floods roar through the arroyos and over the roads. The latter is a hoot to witness, anyway. People stand out in the street and watch!

Usually it rains so seldom here—like almost never—that when it does, I have to remind my wife how to work the windshield wipers. (Now that’s dry.) Sometimes you see drivers going really slow because the road is wet. It’s like, “What the hell is this?” Also, their wipers probably don’t work because the rubber’s dry and cracked.

Finally, in case you’re wondering, most of the annual precipitation in el Norte comes as snow… Urk. Yes, that’s right. Last year I built my first fire of the season in late August. It can happen. I’m sitting here right now, in fact, on July 29, in long pants and sleeves with the front door open, and last night I had to close two of our three windows. These days you can tell the tourists from the locals pretty easily, because the former are the ones out in the morning wearing shorts.

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John Hamilton Farr lives in Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. with his classical pianist wife. “Possibly the only place I can get away with this,” he says. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore (Bush’s Brain) put it in a review of John’s first book, Buffalo Lights is the work of a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” John is the author of BUFFALO LIGHTS, TAOS SOUL, ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, and THE HELEN CHRONICLES. He has been publishing online since 1996 (Zoo Zone, Farr Site, MacFaust, GRACK!, FarrFeed) and blogs regularly here at JHFARR.COM. See also → John’s Twitter profile, Amazon Author Page, video channel at YouTube, and website photos at SmugMug. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page.  

  • Terri O July 30, 2013, 6:23 PM

    oh you…those cool nights are making me crazy jealous. Was 96 down here today, and yes, we’re having monsoons. ABQ has gotten hotter since I moved here just 6 yrs ago. I SO wish our weather was remotely like yours…monsoon season cooling things down for good. The big storm we had Friday night was actually a Cat 1 hurricane! 89 mph winds. It was scary and wild and destructive-and I lived in FL for 30 yrs. I’m still incredulous at how any freaking city at 5,000 feet can be 100 and 95 degrees! a big bow to you both~~

    • JHF August 2, 2013, 10:36 AM

      Sorry to be so long in replying, but thank you for commenting. As for temps, another 2K feet makes all the difference. Plus a big city soaks up heat and the nights are warmer for that reason. ABQ is a nice town, though. Whenever we go down there, I take us to lunch at Two Fools’ Tavern.

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