What is a monsoon? It's not a storm. What to know about the intense weather pattern.
It may seem as if weather is becoming more extreme with each year. Every summer there are record high temperatures sweeping the nations, extreme droughts and severe thunderstorms.
This carries over to the fall and winter with dangerous hurricanes and snow storms that at their worse leave people injured and dead.
While extreme weather is on the rise and poses a serious risk to people's safety, there are also many weather phenomena that happen every year like monsoons.
But what are monsoons and where do they happen? We have the answers.
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What is a monsoon?
The word monsoon comes from the Arabic word “mawsim” which means season, according to Live Science. Unlike singular large rain storms, monsoons are a seasonal wind shift over a region that can bring about heavy rain or a dry spell.
Associated with the Indian Ocean, monsoons blow from cold to warm regions with summer and winter monsoons impacting the climate for most of India and Southeast Asia, according to National Geographic.
Summer monsoons tend to be wet and occur from April through September. These monsoons bring warm, moist air from the southwest Indian Ocean to India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Summer monsoons typically bring torrential downfalls and a humid climate to these regions.
Winter monsoons occur from October to April and are less powerful than summer monsoons. While winter monsoons are associated with droughts, they are not always dry. While the eastern Pacific coast of Southeast Asia has a rainy season, the western part of Southeast Asia has a dry season.
During winter monsoons, moisture and wind from the coast are blocked by the Himalaya Mountains. This also prevents cool air from reaching southern India and Sri Lanka, keeping them warm, according to National Geographic.
There is also a phenomenon in the Southwest of the U.S. and northwestern Mexico called the North American Monsoon. Similar to monsoons in southeast Asia, the North American Monsoon is a seasonal shift in atmospheric circulation that occurs when summer heat warms the landmass, according to Climate.gov.
Monsoons in the U.S. have helped relieve droughts in the Southwest, but have also led to dangerous flooding.
Is a monsoon a storm?
A monsoon is not a storm and is instead a pattern of rains and winds that can span over large geographical areas. Monsoons have also led to dangerous flooding in India.
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Is a monsoon a hurricane? Or is it a cyclone?
Neither. Monsoons are often incorrectly referred to as hurricanes or cyclones. Like hurricanes, cyclones are storms that typically form over oceans.
Hurricanes form over the Northeast Pacific and the North Atlantic Oceans. Cyclones form over the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Typhoons are another word for these types of storms, but typhoons form over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.
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How does a monsoon happen?
Monsoons are formed when there is a seasonal change in the direction of the winds in a given region. Because they are seasonal, many people who live in the regions of the world that experience monsoons depend on them for their livelihood.
According to National Geographic, since India and Southeast Asia do not have large irrigation systems near rivers, snowmelt areas and lakes, they rely on the heavy rainfall from summer monsoon season.
Rice and tea crops rely on summer monsoons, as well as dairy farms which rely on the heavy rainfall to keep their cows fed. Summer monsoons even fuel hydroelectric power plants with water collected from the heavy rainfall. These power schools, business and hospitals.
When the summer monsoon season is late it hurts the economies of these regions because people are unable to grow their crops and electricity becomes more expensive. Because of this they have been called India’s true finance minister.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is a monsoon? What to know about the intense weather patterns