If you have ever lived in Kolkata, India; Niamey, Niger; Darwin, Australia; or Tucson, Arizona, you have experienced a monsoonal climate. A long dry season during the cold months of the year transitions to a spring season with scorching temperatures and the occasional explosive thunderstorm as the wind brings more and more humidity from the sea and, eventually, summer rain.

Many monsoonal regions experience a seasonal reversal of the prevailing winds, from offshore during the dry season to onshore during the rainy season. But the most salient feature is the rainfall—a monsoon climate sees most of its annual rainfall concentrated during the summer, as shown in the seasonal comparison in figure 1.

Monsoons have been central to the identity and art of many world cultures. Their winds power sailing vessels, and their rains fulfill the water needs of billions of people in the tropics and subtropics. Monsoons have also...

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