• A monsoon is a seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing, or strongest, winds of a region. Monsoons cause wet and dry seasons throughout much of the tropics. Monsoons are most often associated with the Indian Ocean.

    Monsoons always blow from cold to warm regions. The summer monsoon and the winter monsoon determine the climate for most of India and Southeast Asia.

    Summer Monsoon

    The summer monsoon is associated with heavy rainfall. It usually happens between April and September. As winter ends, warm, moist air from the southwest Indian Ocean blows toward countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. The summer monsoon brings a humid climate and torrential rainfall to these areas.

    India and Southeast Asia depend on the summer monsoon. Agriculture, for example, relies on the yearly rain. Many areas in these countries do not have large irrigation systems surrounding lakes, rivers, or snowmelt areas. Aquifers, or supplies of underground water, are shallow. The summer monsoon fills wells and aquifers for the rest of the year. Rice and tea are some crops that rely on the summer monsoon. Dairy farms, which help make India the largest milk producer in the world, also depend on the monsoon rains to keep cows healthy and well-fed.

    Industry in India and Southeast Asia also relies on the summer monsoon. A great deal of electricity in the region is produced by hydroelectric power plants, which are driven by water collected during the monsoons. Electricity powers hospitals, schools, and businesses that help the economies of these areas develop.

    When the summer monsoon is late or weak, the regions economy suffers. Fewer people can grow their own food, and large agribusinesses do not have produce to sell. Governments must import food. Electricity becomes more expensive, sometimes limiting development to large businesses and wealthy individuals. The summer monsoon has been called Indias true finance minister.

    Heavy summer monsoons can cause great damage. Residents of such urban areas as Mumbai, India, are used to the streets flooding with almost half a meter (1.5 feet) of water every summer. However, when the summer monsoon is stronger than expected, floods can devastate the region. In cities like Mumbai, entire neighborhoods can be drowned. In rural areas, mudslides can bury villages and destroy crops.

    In 2005, a strong monsoon devastated western India. As the summer monsoon blew in from the southwest, it first hit the state of Gujarat. More than 100 people died. Then, the monsoon rains hit the state of Maharashtra. Flooding in Maharashtra killed more than 1,000 people. On July 26, 2005, the city of Mumbai, Maharashtra, received almost a meter (39.1 inches) of rain.

    Winter Monsoon

    The Indian Oceans winter monsoon, which lasts from October to April, is less well-known than its rainy summer equivalent. The dry winter monsoon blows from the northeast. These winds start in the air above Mongolia and northwestern China.

    Winter monsoons are less powerful than summer monsoons in Southeast Asia, in part because the Himalaya Mountains prevent much of the wind and moisture of the monsoons from reaching the coast. The Himalayas also prevent much of the cool air from reaching places like southern India and Sri Lanka, keeping them warm all year. Winter monsoons are sometimes associated with droughts.

    Not all winter monsoons are dry, however. Unlike the western part of Southeast Asia, the eastern, Pacific coast of Southeast Asia experiences its rainy season in the winter. The winter monsoon brings moist air from the South China Sea to areas like Indonesia and Malaysia.

    Other Monsoons

    The Asian-Australian monsoon, which includes the Indian Ocean, stretches from northern Australia to Russias Pacific coast. This huge monsoon wind system then stretches into the Indian Ocean. Finally, it reaches its end on the Indian coast of Africa.

    Monsoon winds exist in other parts of the world, too. The North American monsoon happens once a year, usually in the middle of summer. Warm, moist air from the Gulf of California blows northeast, while warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico blows northwest. These two winds meet over the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains in central Mexico. The monsoon brings moisture to the mountain ecosystem before continuing north to the U.S. states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

    The North American monsoon can be a natural aid to firefighters. Summer temperatures in Arizona regularly reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, making wildfires difficult to contain. The North American monsoon is also the primary water source for most desert ecosystems in the region. However, it can also confuse and interrupt daily life for people and businesses not used to dealing with heavy rain.

    The rice paddies of Southeast Asia depend on the seasonal monsoon.

    Monsoon Zone
    The Monsoon Zone is a belt of low-pressure air currents that circle the Earth at the Equator. The Monsoon Zone is also known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The Monsoon Zone is usually warm and experiences mild winds.

    At sea, the Monsoon Zone is known as the Doldrums due to its lack of winds.

    Monsoon Cup
    The Monsoon Cup is an international yachting race held every year in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia. The race is held during monsoon season, making it a challenging race for sailors.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agribusiness Noun

    the strategy of applying profit-making practices to the operation of farms and ranches.

    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture
    aid Noun

    help or assistance.

    aquifer Noun

    an underground layer of rock or earth which holds groundwater.

    Encyclopedic Entry: aquifer
    Asian-Australian monsoon Noun

    weather system stretching from Australia to Africa, bringing rainy seasons and dry seasons to most of Southeast Asia.

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    contain Verb

    to keep under control, hold, or prevent escape.

    cow Noun

    large, domesticated mammal used for milk and meat.

    crop Noun

    agricultural produce.

    Encyclopedic Entry: crop
    current Noun

    steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

    Encyclopedic Entry: current
    dairy Adjective

    having to do with the production of milk, cream, butter, or cheese.

    damage Noun

    harm that reduces usefulness or value.

    desert Noun

    area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: desert
    devastate Verb

    to destroy.

    doldrums Noun

    areas of calm winds north of the Equator in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

    drought Noun

    period of greatly reduced precipitation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: drought
    drown Verb

    to die or suffocate in a liquid.

    dry Adjective

    arid or lacking in moisture.

    economy Noun

    system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

    ecosystem Noun

    community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem
    electricity Noun

    set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and flow of electric charge.

    Equator Noun

    imaginary line around the Earth, another planet, or star running east-west, 0 degrees latitude.

    Encyclopedic Entry: equator
    finance minister Noun

    person responsible for a nation's economy.

    firefighter Noun

    person who works to control and put out fires.

    flood Noun

    overflow of a body of water onto land.

    Encyclopedic Entry: flood
    humid Adjective

    air containing a large amount of water vapor.

    hydroelectric power Noun

    usable energy generated by moving water converted to electricity.

    import Verb

    to bring in a good or service from another area for trade.

    industry Noun

    activity that produces goods and services.

    Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) Noun

    belt of low-pressure air currents that circle the Earth at the Equator. Also known as the Monsoon Zone.

    irrigation Noun

    watering land, usually for agriculture, by artificial means.

    Encyclopedic Entry: irrigation
    moisture Noun


    monsoon Noun

    seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing winds of a region. Monsoon usually refers to the winds of the Indian Ocean and South Asia, which often bring heavy rains.

    Encyclopedic Entry: monsoon
    Monsoon Cup Noun

    yachting competition held in Malaysia during the winter.

    Monsoon Zone Noun

    belt of low-pressure air currents that circle the Earth at the Equator. Also known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).

    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    mudslide Noun

    rapid, downhill flow of soil and water. Also called a mudflow.

    neighborhood Noun

    an area within a larger city or town where people live and interact with one another.

    Encyclopedic Entry: neighborhood
    North American monsoon Noun

    summer weather system bringing the rainy season to central Mexico and the Southwest United States.

    prevailing wind Noun

    wind that blows from one direction.

    primary Adjective

    first or most important.

    rainfall Noun

    amount of precipitation that falls in a specific area during a specific time.

    rainy season Noun

    time of year when most of the rain in a region falls.

    rice Noun

    grass cultivated for its seeds.

    season Noun

    period of the year distinguished by special climatic conditions.

    Encyclopedic Entry: season
    summer monsoon Noun

    change in the direction of a prevailing wind, resulting in a region's rainy season or dry season.

    tea Noun

    plant native to Asia cultivated for its leaves.

    torrential Adjective

    heavy, fast-flowing.

    tropics Plural Noun

    region generally located between the Tropic of Cancer (23 1/2 degrees north of the Equator) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23 1/2 degrees south of the Equator).

    Encyclopedic Entry: tropics
    urban area Noun

    developed, densely populated area where most inhabitants have nonagricultural jobs.

    Encyclopedic Entry: urban area
    wealthy Adjective

    very rich.

    well Noun

    a hole drilled in the Earth to obtain a liquid or gaseous substance.

    wildfire Noun

    uncontrolled fire that happens in a rural or sparsely populated area.

    wind Noun

    movement of air (from a high pressure zone to a low pressure zone) caused by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun.

    winter monsoon Noun

    change in the direction of a prevailing wind, resulting in a region's rainy season or dry season.

    yachting Noun

    sport of racing large sailing vessels.