From Mazatlán to Tucson, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is analyzing moisture-laden skies through September as part of the largest study yet of the North American Monsoon. Each year the midsummer arrival of quenching rains plays a vital role in dryland farming, ranching, and wildfire control across the southwest United States and northwest Mexico. The monsoon may also hold useful clues for predicting summer rainfall elsewhere in the United States.
“A long-term goal of the project is to produce forecasts of the monsoons onset with perhaps more than a week of lead time,” says NCARs David Gochis, one of the principal investigators for the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME). "Were exploring the limits of predictability.”
As with other monsoons around the world, the North American Monsoon develops in late spring and early summer as intensifying sunlight heats dry inland areas. The rising air across Mexicos Sierra Madre and Central Plateau helps pull moisture from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the adjacent gulfs of California and Mexico, eventually triggering intense rains.
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