Despite all of their scientific knowledge, National Weather Service officials were unable to forecast the storm of controversy they would kick up by proposing to scrap the term “monsoon” in Arizona.
After floating a possible name change this week, the weather service received a deluge of calls protesting that the concept is part of the local culture.
Dozens of people objected to attempts to find a better description for the time of year when the winds change and bring tropical moisture to the area, said Tony Haffer, meteorologist in charge of the local weather service bureau.
“There is a large portion of the response we’ve had from a variety of people that want to retain the term monsoon,” Haffer said Wednesday. “The bottom line is that monsoon seems to be very much a part of the Arizona scene.”
Haffer said the beginning of the monsoon season, which typically begins mid-summer, is marked by three consecutive days with an average dew point of at least 55 degrees.
The weather service had considered changing the name to something along the lines of “severe thunderstorm season” because of the apparent confusion the term monsoon generates among some people.
Officials are still looking for a better moniker for the season, such as “The Arizona monsoon and severe weather season,” Haffer said.
Andrew Ellis, associate professor of climatology at Arizona State University, said the term monsoon has taken up residence in the local imagination.
“For whatever reason, the people here have fallen in love with the definition,” he said. “It’s just one of those things people become accustomed to.”
Much of the confusion may be because new people are always moving to the area, said Bill Bellis, chief meteorologist at KNXV-TV (Channel 15).
“People who live here a year or two, they get it,” Bellis said. “It’s something that’s been embedded in our heads and I’m kind of glad people have said, ‘That’s something we’re used to dealing with.’ It’s part of Arizona. It’s what people talk about.”
Bellis said he has no problem with an expanded name for the season, though, as long as it keeps the term
“That’s fine, I agree with that. A severe weather season associated with the monsoon,” he said.
Ellis said he thought an expanded, more descriptive name for monsoon season is reasonable, as well.
“What the National Weather Service is all about is public awareness of severe weather,” he said. “Raising awareness that threat is there is generally what they’re after.”
Tribune reader comments concerning changing the name “monsoon.”
Monsoon adequately, and technically, describes the Arizona “thunderstorm season” which occurs when the dew point is above 55 degrees. Do not change the name. Please pass this along to the NWS.
Please change to “Thunderstorm Season” rather than “Monsoon Season.”
Just keep “Monsoon Season”. People are smarter than you think. No need to dumb things down.
I grew up here and for as long as I can remember people have been calling it the Monsoon Season. We didn’t pay much attention to dew points and changing wind patterns. All we knew was that the monsoon started when the swamp cooler stopped working.
As a native, I say resist the temptation to homogenize everything in Arizona to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The NWS and local news coverage do an excellent job of educating the masses. Monsoon wins!!
A monsoon is a monsoon. It is not confusing. Leave it alone. It has a nice ring to it. Why must we have to change everything? Don’t mess with it.
Please do not change the name. Changing the name doesn’t change what it has always meant. The name Monsoon is intriguing to me. It means rain, wind, thunderstorms, lightning for a few weeks in the middle of our summer. Kind of exciting. Changing the name would take away that aura of excitement and intriguing aspect. We look forward to the “Monsoon”.