Illustrating Data

Illustrating the Nonsoon

Our work builds from a deep interest in the world around us, including current climate conditions that drive conversations about how, where, when, and how much water is used. As we watched 2020 unfold, we started tracking the record-breaking heat that seemed to send any hint of rain running elsewhere. To satiate our own curiosity about how this summer compared to other years, and explore how rainfall varied throughout Arizona, we developed a series of

statewide visualizations of the now infamous “Nonsoon” that integrate multi-faceted station-level NOAA datasets.


Below, we explore the magnitude of the 2020 'Nonsoon' of current and historical weather data for Arizona using the NOAA GHCN database, a big-data compilation (our analysis for Arizona alone examined over 3.2 million data points) of historic data from weather monitoring stations across the United States. 

Note: some of the figures below utilize an interactive Plotly interface - feel free to click, drag, hover and explore. 

Explore the data

Summarized County-Level Monsoon Rainfall 

The figure above shows aggregated county-level precipitation during the annual monsoon (July-September) for Arizona. County-level measurements are generated by averaging the the summed monthly precipitation for all stations within a given county. Data for 2020 include precipitation levels up the time in which the dataset was generated (September 13th). 

Comparing 2020 to Historical Monsoon Seasons 

Above, each colored peak represents the distribution of monsoon precipitation for a given county from 1985 to 2020. The higher the peak, the more monsoons seasons have this level of precipitation. 2020 precipitation is plotted as vertical dotted lines. For all counties, 2020 falls in the extreme left edge of the tail of the distribution, indicating that compared to historic data, 2020 is an incredibly dry monsoon season. 


Mapping the Nonsoon


Here, each county is mapped to a percentage scale, where 100% would indicate that a county has received 100% of the total average precipitation in 2020 that it typically does during a monsoon season. Though this data stops at September 13th, these averages are startling low, with most counties in Arizona far below the 50% threshold.