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Will monsoons bring rain to the West?

A monsoon could stop a drought in the West. But it might bring lightning, too

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Smoke in Missoula, Montana.

Smoke obscures the air and dims the sun over a hillside burned by a recent wildfire in Missoula, Mont., on Sunday, July 18, 2021. Monsoon season has arrived, bringing hope that storms will soon bring rain to the dry western United States.

Matthew Brown, Associated Press

Monsoon season has arrived, bringing hope that storms will soon bring rain to the dry western United States. But with those storms comes another danger — lightning, which could spark more wildfires, according to CNN.

Monsoons to end West drought?

Right now, experts predict that the dry western United States will see an uptick in rain because of an above-average monsoon season that will begin soon. Rainfall and cool temperatures could help ease the drought concerns hitting the West and Southwest right now.

  • “The region expects to see temperatures below average all week due to the rainfall, bringing a welcome relief after extreme heat early in the summer,” CNN reports.
  • In fact, the Weather Prediction Center suggests that the monsoons will bring temperatures down by 5 to 10 degrees compared to normal.

We’re already seeing this happen in Arizona, where monsoon rains and hail hit areas such as Flagstaff, according to AZFamily.com. Those rains are expected to continue.

  • “As monsoon activity is expected to ramp up over the next week, residents in the Flagstaff area are bracing for more rain and possible flash flooding,” according to AZFamily.com.

Lightning and wildfire risks

However, CNN reports there could be more lightning strikes from the storms. And recent data from the National Interagency Fire Center show that close to 12% of wildfires from 2008 to 2012 have been started by lightning.

Per The Washington Post, a number of recent thunderstorms have been releasing lightning without rain, which has sparked wildfire threats across the country.

  • “While monsoonal thunderstorms are common in summer in the West, especially in the mountains, the level of flammability across the landscape right now is far above normal and breaking records in many areas,” according to The Washington Post. Relentless heat, on top of severe drought, has made fires much more likely to ignite and spread rapidly.