Missing Monsoon

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Arizona has not seen a lot of Monsoon action this summer, but we have seen a lot of 110-degree plus days. Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny will discuss our summer weather.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," what happened to the monsoon? Tonight, we'll look at the upcoming national political conventions. And we'll meet the city of Tempe's art director. Those stories next, on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona pbs, members of PBS.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Jeri Williams, the next chief of police, was introduced at city hall. She served for many years with Phoenix PD.

Jeri Williams: To the Phoenix community, wow, I stand before you today, ready to take hold of this agency in October. I will listen to your concerns, I will be your representative, I will represent you, I will represent us because that is what I believe law enforcement is supposed to do.

Greg Stanton: She is a true Phoenix street cop who rose up through the ranks and she served on almost every level that this department has to offer and she understands what our police officers on the streets encounter every single day and she knows how to keep them and the community they serve safe.

Jeri Williams: It is required for me to take that leadership and experience and work alongside this community, department and city to demonstrate how progressive the Phoenix police department has become.

Ted Simons: They were asked about the hiring of an African-American police chief considering the increased tensions between law enforcement and African-Americans around the country.

Ed Zuercher: This process started over nine months ago. It's been ongoing before a lot of this happened. It ends today. It is purely coincidence because it is about it qualifications of this person that speak for themselves and speak loudly.

Ted Simons: Williams is the first female Phoenix police chief. He is the wife of Cody Williams and mother of Phoenix sun's Alan Williams.

Ted Simons: We haven't seen much of Arizona's monsoon this summer. The state is usually being peppered with dust and thunderstorms this time of year. Not so, this summer. Here to help explain what's going on is ASU Climatologist Randy Cerveny. Welcome back.

Randy Cerveny: Thank you.

Ted Simons: You have some explaining to do. [LAUGHTER]

Randy Cerveny: The problem is our fuel line got cut. We depend, for the monsoon thunderstorms, on the moisture. It has to come up from Mexico, from the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean and come into Arizona. It that gets stopped, we can have all the other factors in place, but we're not going to get any thunderstorms.

Ted Simons: What's stopping it?

Randy Cerveny: Over the last week, what happened is, we had a storm system that was over the northern part of the country that was blocking the moisture. Just barely touching upon the Southern parts of the states. It moved off into the great plains and east coast. Over the next week, we'll start to see thunderstorms in Tucson and hopefully by early next week, we should have them here in Phoenix.

Ted Simons: How unusual for so little action this time of the month of July?

Randy Cerveny: Well, a lot of people don't realize that July is really not known for that many storms. Monsoon, it consists of bursts and breaks. There are periods of high activity and periods of low activity. July tends to be a low activity month. We'll have periodic storms; we've missed a few of those. Most of July is true. August, it swoops around a little bit.

Ted Simons: We're in a lull. Does the lull means the storms will be a lot stronger when they come around?

Randy Cerveny: Not necessarily. It simply means we didn't get moisture we definitely could have used.

Ted Simons: Later start for the monsoon, does that mean a later finish?

Randy Cerveny: No. Again, not necessarily. These storms are driven very much by local conditions. There's not a long setup situation like we talk about when we talk about wintertime El Niño events. The summer is concerned with what's happening here and now and what happened a few weeks ago really doesn't have a big impact.

Ted Simons: We've talked about high temperatures suck the moisture up here. That's the break we get. That's our natural break. You live through the 118, the 115. We had all that stuff and the storm's not coming.

Randy Cerveny: Notice what's happened over the next few days, we've been back to 110. That's starting the charge again. By next week, we'll be back down into our normal, 105-106-degree range but we'll have more humidity.

Ted Simons: You mentioned 110. 110 or more 18 times this year. The average for the summer is 19. Again, what's going on?

Randy Cerveny: Well, we're almost done with that kind of situation. If you look at the annual trends of our temperatures, like today, it's the first day where the average temperature goes down. Yesterday, the average temperature was 107. Today, it's 106. So, we are now in that downward slide. It's going to be hard for people to realize that.

Ted Simons: If we have a few more and it gets to be -- a little above average, but not crazy above average.

Randy Cerveny: The second highest temperature we've had in Phoenix took place on July 28. So that was 121 degrees. So we can get that dry conditions.

Ted Simons: Is there a La Niña forming?

Randy Cerveny: Yeah. I was totally wrong about La Niña so I won't say that. La Niña means for dry conditions. All the storms go to Oregon and Washington and we get sunny skies.

Ted Simons: Does the fact that a La Niña impact anything at all that's happening to us this summer?

Randy Cerveny: Actually, it does. We get La Niña going on. We have a lot more hurricanes off the west coast of Mexico. As we get into October, some of those hurricanes are going to drift and fall apart and their moisture's going to come up into Arizona. A lot of our moisture that we get in October is the result of dead hurricanes off the coast of Mexico. That will be more likely.

Ted Simons: That means rain for usually the western and southwestern parts of the state.

Randy Cerveny: Yuma and that area.

Ted Simons: Forecast for the rest of the summer, forecast for the rest of the year, please.

Randy Cerveny: Well -- I'll tell you what the climate prediction center is going with. A near-normal monsoon. We're going to end up with about -- by the end of September -- maybe two additional inches of rainfall. The forecast is going to be for dry conditions so that we probably won't get to our normal eight inches of rainfall for this year.

Ted Simons: Really? Temperatures?

Randy Cerveny: Temperatures are going to be hot. That's the traditional western situation.

Ted Simons: La Niñas seem like that last longer, they go on for more years than an El Niño?

Randy Cerveny: Yes. Five of the seven years of La Niña.

Ted Simons: It might well have been a La Niña. Always good to see you. [LAUGHTER]

Randy Cerveny: Thanks. My pleasure.

Randy Cerveny: Arizona State University climatologist

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