The word monsoon comes from the Arabic word 'mausim' which translates as 'season', which is suggestive of the seasonal nature of the monsoon and its associated rains.
A monsoon climate is characterised by a dramatic seasonal change in direction of the prevailing winds of a region which brings a marked change in rainfall. The monsoon climate results in high annual rainfall totals exceeding 1.5 m (5 ft) in many places.
Monsoons lead to distinct wet and dry seasons in many areas throughout the tropics and are most often associated with the Indian Ocean.
Monsoon conditions are best developed in the subtropics, such as in east and south-east Asia. The rainy season associated with monsoon winds is the outstanding feature of the climate of these regions though the term 'the monsoon' is popularly used there to denote the rains, without reference to the winds.
Monsoon Walk. Photo: Kamaljith
During the winter monsoon, large areas of high pressure remain persistently over Asia pushing cool, dry air south to the tropics providing the region with its dry season.
While the Asian monsoon is the most widely known, monsoon conditions also occur also (though to a lesser degree) in northern Australia, parts of western, southern and eastern Africa, and parts of North and South America.
Last updated: 20 May 2016