The 2021 monsoon is already breaking records this season, and could become one of the wettest on record, according to the National Weather Service.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms last weekend brought the local monsoon rainfall total to 5.96 inches, making this the wettest monsoon to date through July 25, according to the NWS.
The total rainfall for the month so far – 5.71 inches, according to totals at the Tucson International Airport – also ranks as the fourth-wettest July and the sixth-wettest month on record. On average, Tucson sees about 2.21 inches of rain in July during a typical monsoon, said Kevin Strongman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tucson.
Compared to last year’s “nonsoon,” Strongman said a surge of moisture from the Gulf of California set the stage for a more active and favorable pattern of rain and storms this year.
“We’re looking at a fairly active pattern, and a near daily dose of thunderstorms about every day for the rest of July and possibly August,” Strongman said.
“We could definitely be on track to have one of the wettest monsoons or be near normal, depending on how the storms behave next month and into September,” he said.
The recent heavy rains have provided some drought relief to parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as parts of Pima County have transitioned from a D4-exceptional drought to a D3-extreme drought.
But Strongman said the National Weather Service still expects to see persistent drought conditions, with slight improvements into next month, as the region “slowly creeps out of the worst (drought) categories.”
Throughout the past week, monsoon activity dumped record rainfall across the Tucson metro area, with some regions already receiving 200 to 400 percent of their average precipitation this season, according to data from the University of Arizona.
Areas of Green Valley and Sahuarita saw three to five inches of rain over the last seven days, according to Pima County Regional Flood Control data, bringing rainfall totals for July to between 5.59 inches and 9.45 inches for parts of the Santa Cruz River basin.
But rain does not fall the same for all. At his home in Quail Creek, Steve Ware has been recording precipitation totals since Jan. 1, and last week’s storms brought his year-to-date totals to more than 11 inches.
Since moving here from Oregon in July 2019, Ware said it’s been especially fun to watch the rain come in after the dry, hot summers he’s seen in Sahuarita, and it’s starting to remind him of home.
“Year-to-date in Grants Pass, Oregon, they’re at 13.69 inches. So, we’re almost equal to the wet, Pacific Northwest here in Arizona,” he said with a laugh.
According to data from the University of Arizona’s Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS), Green Valley sees an average of 7.3 inches of rainfall during a typical monsoon.
So far, this year’s monsoon precipitation total in Green Valley – currently at about four inches, according to CLIMAS – has surpassed last season’s total, which brought just 1.33 inches to Green Valley, and nearly surpassed the 2019 season total, which brought about 4.34 inches of rainfall to Green Valley, according to the NWS.
After record rainfall over the past few days, we should see a lot more sunshine across the region this week as the weather system that brought a majority of the storm activity heads west.
Temperatures will climb back near seasonal normals in the 90s, compared to the many record low maximums from last weekend, with clearer, drier days expected through Wednesday.
More monsoon activity is expected to pick up Thursday, the NWS said, potentially bringing more moisture into the weekend and early next week.