It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity: Desert has been extra sticky this summer

Experts confirm this year’s monsoon season has been more humid, with clouds visible in the desert most days and plenty of rain in the nearby mountains.
Clouds are seen forming over Mt. San Jacinto this past weekend. They’ve been a nearly daily presence around the desert for much of the summer.

Anyone who has lived multiple summers in the desert knows “monsoon season” — and the sticky humidity that accompanies it — is a thing. And if you’re thinking this year has been extra sticky for extra long, you’re right.

At issue: Experts at the National Weather Service’s San Diego forecast center don’t track humidity, but they do track storms and the precipitation they bring. They also track something equally important — the dew point. Their measurements show this summer we are definitely feeling more like gator country than the land of roadrunners.

  • As of Aug. 19 there had been 13 “monsoon days” for the mountains and deserts of Southern California, forecaster Miguel Miller said. That’s five more than we’ve been averaging for the past seven years, and there’s still a month to go.
  • In fact, this year’s monsoon season has already cracked the top 20 for measurable precipitation in nearby mountains. While not much of that rain has reached the Coachella Valley, there have still been many more cloudy days than normal.
  • All that leads to dew points (lower ones mean the air feels dryer and higher ones mean it feels wetter) that have been “off the charts” this summer. 

What they’re saying: “We have had dewpoint temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees in the Imperial Valley,”  wrote Alex Tardy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “That is as high as Florida or Texas anytime!”

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Yes, but: As noted very quietly by many (so as not to anger the weather gods) at least we haven’t seen our usual run of 120-degree days this summer. While that’s true — we hit 115 degrees a few times in July, but have otherwise been cooler than last summer — you may have to pause before explaining to friends and family that “it’s a dry heat.”

Bottom line: Feel like we’ve been in a perpetual state of warning? We basically have. So far this year, NOAA has issued 85 advisories for possible flooding in our area. That’s one less than all of 2021, and 45 more than 2020.


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