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It’s not often you see a high in the mid-70s in mid-May and snow in the high country, but that’s what’s happening this May. Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny will explain what’s happening.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," does the unusual weather of late suggest that El Niño is still with us? Also tonight, hear about a microwave conference being held in town. And we'll meet the new interim director of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

TED SIMONS: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Former Florida governor was in the valley today and made headlines by saying that he would not have invaded Iraq. Bush spoke at a small business owners town hall held at Tempe's Four Peaks Brewery. Bush said that, quote, "knowing what we know now, I would not have engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq." Today's remarks clarify statements Bush made earlier this week that suggested that he would have authorized the Iraq invasion even if he knew then what is now known about the situation.

TED SIMONS: And some Republican Arizona lawmakers are upset that ASU and the U. of A. lobbied Congress for passage of the DREAM Act. Records show that ASU and U. of A. lobbyists have pushed DREAM Act legislation for several years. Senate appropriations chairman Don Shooter says that revelations of the lobbying might reflect how lawmakers opposed to the DREAM Act approach future funding for universities.

TED SIMONS: Mid-May is usually a time for dry weather and temperatures at or near 100 degrees. But here, we are expecting rain tomorrow in the deserts and from two to four inches of snow in the High Country. Here to explain what is happening is ASU climatologist Randy Cerveny. Always a pleasure to see you. Before we get going here, are we still experiencing El Niño?

RANDY CERVENY: Well, actually we're finally experiencing El Niño. It seems like we've been talking about this for a year and it hasn't gotten its act together until just this last month or so and then what we've seen is that the Pacific Ocean, the equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean is really heating up. It's starting to look like it's not just going to be an El Niño but a fairly good El Niño.

TED SIMONS: Can you call it an El Niño? Isn't the El Niño supposed to be the warming of those waters around Christmastime?

RANDY CERVENY: Exactly, that's right, that's where the name comes from, El Niño for the Christ child. That normally happens in December. We were expecting it to happen in December. It would have led to a lot more snow that we would have gotten but it didn't for whatever reason and we don't know why, it didn't get going until actually around March. And now, it's really starting to get going.

TED SIMONS: Can El Niño weather patterns go past the winter?

RANDY CERVENY: Yeah, they can. They tend to have the biggest impact on the wintertime circulation, because that's a little bit more volatile. But what we're anticipating this summer is having that warm Pacific Ocean means we're going to get a little more moisture coming into the states. So even though it doesn't change our weather patterns so much, having all that moisture means we're going to get more monsoon thunderstorms.

TED SIMONS: I was going to ask because every time I ask you to predict or does this mean a better monsoon? Or does that mean a better monsoon? you always say you can't predict the monsoon but I'm hearing a little prediction here.

RANDY CERVENY: We are trying to and what I'm doing is mirroring the thoughts of the climate prediction center but I kind of agree with them. And they're saying basically that we're going to have a lot more moisture coming into the state and that from Texas into northern Arizona and up into Utah, they're going to get a better than normal monsoon. Unfortunately, it's not going to reach into California so they're not going to get any relief from the drought.

TED SIMONS: So the further west the less likely you're going to get some monsoon moisture? Impact on the monsoon

RANDY CERVENY: What we are saying is it's not going to change the weather pattern but give us more energy more fuel to power those storms.

TED SIMONS: How unusual is this recent weather pattern?

RANDY CERVENY: Very unusual. As you were saying, normally May and June are our total dry months, and to have not only one but now, this is going to be the second storm that we're going to have coming in tomorrow, we've got another chance next week for another storm to come through, very, very bizarre May that we're setting up.

TED SIMONS: And as we speak, Los Angeles is getting socked by rain. They don't get rain - dodgers games are rarely rained out ever in history because it just doesn't rain over there in the summer. They're getting rain.

RANDY CERVENY: And we're actually anticipating a little bit more rain than they are. The high country could get a fairly significant amount of rain in the next 24 hours.

TED SIMONS: Now, you're saying that El Niño has extended, and it's out there right now, and it could affect the monsoon. Could it just shut off like a valve and the whole thing stop on a dime?

RANDY CERVENY: Well, all of our model output suggests not, that actually we're thinking that as this thing is getting its act finally underway, that it could not -- it might not only go for summer but go into our fall and maybe into our winter which does mean we're going to be able to tap into some of that wintertime snow that we would love to have.

TED SIMONS: That was going to be my next question. About a year ago I was asking you and you were saying El Niño could be coming and it will affect our winter weather. Well we're the same time this year, we've already got the El Niño, could it stick around and affect our winter weather?

RANDY CERVENY: Well, this is, like you pointed out, this is an odd one. All of our guidance says yes it's going to stick around but what we've also said is the guidance last year was telling us we were going to have one last winter and it didn't get its act together. I would say yes. I can we're going to have a better summer but we're also going to have a better fall in terms of rainfall.

TED SIMONS: Obviously, it's unusual, obviously, it's different. Is climate change affecting -- are we seeing weather patterns in general and in the southwest in particular changing?

RANDY CERVENY: Well, El Niño is one of these things that happen every few years and it's been quite a few years since we've had our last big El Niño. The last one was 2010 or so. We've gone quite a few years without one and when it does, it really has an impact on the entire globe's wind patterns and also, by the way, will make it a much hotter planet, because the Pacific Ocean takes so much space, having hotter sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean means this is going to be a hot year in terms of global temperatures, as well.

TED SIMONS: I know from your previous visits when you have an El Niño, very few Atlantic hurricanes, and lots in the pacific. When you have the La Nina, which is bad for us because we don't get any rain, they get socked back east with hurricanes. Is that still holding true?

RANDY CERVENY: We are having a typhoon that's going to be hitting Guam in the next 24 hours but every prediction so far for the Atlantic says that this is going to be a really mild hurricane year for the Atlantic.

TED SIMONS: So again, it just seems like weather patterns and weather formulas, do you look at something like this? You've got to say something is going on or do you say that?

RANDY CERVENY: This is what fun about my profession is is we don't have all the answers. We like to figure that we do but unfortunately, we don't. And so this kind of event where we're having this really bizarre late starting El Niño that might go on into the fall, it's going to be a primary way to figure out what's going on with our weather. The more that we can understand why this thing is working; it will help us to make better predictions into the future.

TED SIMONS: Any chance this mega drought is about to end or is it too early to tell?

RANDY CERVENY: It's going to end for the eastern part of the western United States. Texas is almost out of it. New Mexico is going to improve, we're going to improve. California is not.

TED SIMONS: And for the foreseeable future either?

RANDY CERVENY: No, unfortunately. Until maybe this winter, if El Niño holds on, they might get a little bit more of it.

TED SIMONS: Good stuff, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

RANDY CERVENY: My pleasure.

Randy Cerveny:Arizona State University Climatologist

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