Warmer than usual monsoon season ends in Arizona

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Monsoon Dust Storm in Phoenix, AZ Monsoon Dust Storm in Phoenix, AZ

The Arizona monsoon season came to a very warm end this week with record-setting temperatures and a patchwork of rain-soaked cities.

Areas of metropolitan Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff received more than double the average rainfall for a monsoon season, the National Weather Service said.

Despite all the moisture, meteorologists say numerous cities received warmer than usual air.

The traditional monsoon season runs from mid-June to the end of September and is characterized by thunderstorms that stir up dust storms or rain. It occurs when thunderstorms and moisture are stirred up by winds coming from Mexico. The subsequent moisture tends to roll through the Southwest.

[Slideshow: Best of Arizona's 2015 monsoon]

Once September ends, winds change direction and storms are likely tied to activity happening off the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest.

Phoenix had its 35th wettest monsoon season with 3.3 inches of rain but its warmest low temperatures ever. On average in the last three months, Phoenix and its suburbs only managed to cool to about 83.6 degrees.

Warm air also heated up other parts of the state. Down south in Yuma, low temperatures during the season averaged 82.7 degrees - a new record.

Jessica Nolte, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Phoenix, said a combination of factors is behind the burst of warm temperatures. Key among them is the increase in moisture that doesn't lead to any storms.

"If we don't get any rain or actual storm activity out of it, all it does is keep temperatures high," Nolte said. "It really limits how cool we can get."

Isolated storms hit some cities hard such as Wickenburg, which received 7 inches of rain, but dropped less than 1/2 an inch on others. Wickenburg was in the path of moisture from Tropical Storm Dolores in July. Storms left behind flooded homes and streets.

Several northern Arizona cities had an extremely wet season. Alpine saw 14.8 inches of rain, achieving its 8th wettest monsoon season. Show Low reached its 3rd wettest monsoon season with 11.8 inches of rainfall.

In New Mexico, metro Albuquerque got more rainfall than normal with some pockets getting more than 7.5 inches. The Albuquerque Sunport got 5.02 inches of rain, below last year's monsoon total of 5.76 inches but still above normal.

The monsoon rains helped get more of the state out from under an ongoing drought. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 56.7 percent of the state is no longer in drought. That is up from 49.2 percent three months ago and the highest percentage in nearly five years.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 

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