In search of monsoons

Does Florida have monsoons?

While I am not one to sit on the fence (as I am not a politician by nature, but rather a hydrologist): my research keeps leading me up on the same fence post – a semi-definitive and inconclusive “yes” and “no.”

It depending on how you look at it.

The evidence – or lack there of – is seemingly in favor of “no”:

The term “monsoon” is simply not part of Florida’s water lexicon, in both speech and written word. I can’t find it mentioned once anywhere in any of my book on my Florida book shelf.

But that raises my curiosity even more:

“Yes” it’s not mentioned, but “no” it’s not outright refuted either … that keeps me digging.

And after all, South Florida has a distinctly seasonal rainfall pattern.

Could this just be a case of regional nomenclature, as in American “TV” versus the British “Telly” … same thing, just different words?

Let’s take a look.

First a couple things about “monsoons.”

Monsoons aren’t defined by precipitation, but rather by a “shift in the winds.”

Winter in India is dominated by a desiccating northerly wind blowing off the Himalayas and Siberian plateau. Come summer, the desert of western India (Rajasthan Desert) heats up and forms a low pressure.

That pulls in moisture laden air from all sides of the Indian peninsula.

Thus form the monsoonal – or seasonal – storms of the India. They account for roughly 80 percent of India’s rainfall.

Sounds familiar, right?

That’s the same pattern we have here in south Florida.

A big difference between Florida and India is geographic distribution:

India ranges from 15 to over 100 inches of annual rainfall, depending which part of the country you are in. Compare that to Florida fairly narrow range of between 40 and 60 inches of annual rain.

But that’s hardly proof one way or the other:

The American Southwest is famous for its “monsoons” – a firmly embedded term of the desert lexicon (I lived there) – despite a paltry 15 inch annual total.

As you can see, I’m still sitting on the fence … but also still digging.

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