Arizona weather stays high and dry with lack of rainfall

More from this show

Halfway into February, the Phoenix area typically sees around three inches of rain, but this year only half an inch is expected, putting pressure on the state’s drought.

“Arizona is going to be persistently in drought throughout this springtime,” ASU climatologist Randy Cerveny says. “That means we’re not going to get any more snow cover up in the Rim country, which has big implications on our water supply and also to wildfire.”

The chances of rainfall decreases as we approach springtime. Cerveny explains the high stagnant pressure system that’s located in the west has forced all the storms to travel northwest. A current storm is coming from the west, but the moisture is coming from the southwest.

“This very persistent La Niña pattern is slowly breaking up,” Cerveny says. “That’s some good news because if it continues to break up into the spring and summer, it is possible we will get into an El Niño situation next winter.

The lack of rain is predicted to be consequential for the upcoming drought. As Cerveny says, the biggest effects will be seen on our water supply and the number of wildfires.

Starting Monday, the Valley is expected to be blanketed in clouds all week with the greatest chance of rain happening on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

LA NINA IS LIVING UP TO HER REPUTATION, FOR MAKING ARIZONA ONE OF THE DRIEST WINTERS ON RECORD HERE. BUT WE'RE SEEING CLOUDS MOVING IN WITH THE PROMISE OF RAIN THIS WEEK. JOINING US NOW IS ASU CLIMATOLOGIST, RANDY CERVENY. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. WE HAVE HAD -- THE AIRPORT, .44 HUNDREDS OF AN INCH OF DECEMBER, JANUARY AND NOW INTO FEBRUARY. THAT'S NOT GOOD.

RANDY CERVENY: YEAH. DEFINITELY. NORMALLY, WE HAVE THREE INCHES OF RAIN SO FAR. WE HAVE ONLY GOTTEN AS YOU SAY UNDER HALF INCH. WE ARE WAY BELOW NORMAL IN PHOENIX. IT'S EVEN WORSE UP IN THE HIGH COUNTRY.

TED SIMONS: WHY?

RANDY CERVENY: WE HAVE A STAGNANT HIGH PRESSURE SYSTEM THAT IS SET UP OVER THE WESTERN UNITED STATES AND THAT’S FORCED ALL OF THE STORMS TO GO UP INTO THE NORTHWEST AND INTO CANADA. THAT CAUSED US TO BE UNFORTUNATELY HIGH AND DRY.

TED SIMONS: HIGH PRESSURE WORKS CLOCKWISE CORRECT? AND IF IT’S PARKED OVER THE WEST OF US, IT SHOOTS IT UP NORTH.

RANDY CERVENY: AND IT’S ALSO FORCED REALLY COLD WEATHER DOWN ON THE EAST COAST AND THEY HAVE HAD A COLD WINTER SO FAR ON THE EAST COAST.

TED SIMONS: WE’VE HAD WINTERS WITH NO RAIN AT ALL CORRECT, OR AT LEAST ONE ON RECORD?

RANDY CERVENY: YES, WE’VE HAD SOME PRETTY DRY WINTERS THAT LUCKILY ARE PRETTY RARE. BUT THIS IS DEFINETLY ONE OF THE TOP 5.

TED SIMONS: TOP FIVE OR TEN. IT'S WEIRD. IT SEEMS WE HAVEN'T EVEN HAD ANY CLOUDS WHICH MAKES IT FEEL DRYER. SOME WINTERS YOU GET A LOT CLOUDS BUT NO RAIN. WE ARE NOT EVEN HAVING CLOUDS.

RANDY CERVENY: SO FINALLY TODAY I WAS ABLE TO TELL MYSELF THESE THINGS ARE CALLED CLOUDS AND WE FINALLY GOT SOME.

TED SIMONS: WE HAVE A MAP HERE REGARDING FOR DROUGHT. WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR DROUGHT? THE MAP IS SELF-EXPLANATORY, BUT WITH THIS KIND OF A DRY WINTER, THERE IS NO RELIEF IN SIGHT, AS FAR AS THE DROUGHT IS CONCERENED CORRECT?

RANDY CERVENY: KEEP IN MIND AS WE GO INTO THE SPRING OUR AMOUNTS OF RAINFALL GET LESS AND LESS. AS WE LOOK HERE, WE SEE ARIZONA GOING TO BE PERSISTENTLY DROUGHT THROUGHOUT THE SPRINGTIME. THAT MEANS WE ARE NOT GOING TO GET MORE SNOW COVER ON THE RIM COUNTRY, WHICH HAS BIG IMPLICATIONS GOING TO OUR WATER SUPPLY AND WILDFIRE.

TED SIMONS: I NOTICED ON THAT MAP, CAN WE GO TO THE MAP AGAIN. IT LOOKED LIKE ARIZONA, WE ARE ALL COVERED HERE. WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH NEVADA? IS THERE A DIVIDING LINE? WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THAT?

RANDY CERVENY: WE HAVE A FEW STORMS WORKING THEIR WAY DOWN TO THE NORTHERN PART OF CALIFORNIA AND THROUGH NEVADA. THEY ALSO DON'T GET A LOT OF RAIN, BUT ALSO DON'T HAVE A LOT OF AGRICULTURE. A LOT OF THE MEASURES OF DROUGHT ARE BASED ON AGRICULTURE.

TED SIMONS: NOT GOOD AS FAR AS THE DROUGHT IS CONCERNED. TODAY, WE HAVE CLOUDS. FORECAST CALLS FOR RAIN. HOW MUCH RAIN ARE WE LOOKING AT?

RANDY CERVENY: WE'LL GET AT MOST IN THE VALLEY HALF AN INCH. THE NICE THING IS, IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN IN A PARTICULARLY AREA. WE'LL HAVE CLOUDS AND RAIN OVER THE WEEK FOR US. OUR BEST CHANCE IS PROABABLY GOING TO BE WEDNESDAY NIGHT AND INTO THURSDAY MORNING, WE HAVE CHANCES NOW TO FRIDAY WHICH IS GOOD.

TED SIMONS: WE HAVE ANOTHER MAP LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT THIS. WHAT IS THIS MAP TELLING US AS FAR AS RADAR IS CONCERNED?

RANDY CERVENY: THIS IS A SATELLITE IMAGE FROM ONE OF OUR NEWEST SATELLITES. IT'S NOW CALLED GOES EAST, MOW LAUNCHED AS GO-16. A JUNE ORBITING STATIONARY SATELLITE, THE HIGHEST RESOLUTION WE HAVE HAD FOR A WEATHER SATELLITE. WE ARE ABLE TO DO THINGS NOW WITH DATA THAT WE HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO DO, TEN TIMES BETTER THAN ANYTHING WE’VE HAD PREVIOUSLY. OUR FORECASTING IS HOPEFULLY GOING TO GET A LOT BETTER AS WE LOOK AT THIS KIND OF STUFF.

TED SIMONS: LET’S GO BACK TO THE MAP AGAIN, I WANT TO MAKE SURE, WHAT EXACTLY WE’RE LOOKING AT. IT LOOKS LIKE THERE IS LOT’S OF STUFF OUT THERE TO THE WEST. LOOKS LIKE, I KNOW WHAT THE CLOUDS IN THE OCEAN MEAN, IT MEANS COLD WEATHER, DOESN'T IT?

RANDY CERVENY: WE ARE LOOKING AT THE STORM SYSTEM. YOU CAN SEE THERE WERE CLOUDS OVER US TODAY. THEY ARE NOW SLOWLY STARTING TO CLEAR OUT. THE THING TO LOOK AT IS DOWN THERE OVER BAJA, CALIFORNIA WE’VE GOT A LOT OF CLOUDS. THAT'S THE MOISTURE THAT WILL BE FEEDING OVER US OVER THE REST OF THIS WEEK. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THAT BEING SOLID CLOUDS ALL THE WAY SOUTH OF US. THE MORE CLOUDS WE HAVE, THE MORE CHANCE OF MOISTURE AND RAIN THE REST OF THE WEEK.

TED SIMONS: SOUTHWEST TO NORTHEAST PATERN HERE, SOUTH TO NORTH? WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT?

RANDY CERVENY: THE STORM ITSELF IS COMING IN FROM THE WEST BUT IS DRAWING IN MOISTURE FROM THE SOUTHWEST. AND THAT’S WHAT WE WANT TO SEE MOISTURE YOU CAN THINK OF AS A GUN, THE STORM YOU CAN THINK OF AS A GUN AND THE MOISTURE IS THE BULLETS. WE NEED TO HAVE THOSE COME TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME.

TED SIMONS: THIS WEEK HOW COLD A STORM IS IT? WHAT KIND OF SNOW ARE THEY LOOKING UP NORTH?

RANDY CERVENY: THEY ARE GETTING A DECENT AMOUNT OF SNOW. THIS IS A FAIRLY COLD SYSTEM AND I THINK THE SNOW LEVEL SHOULD BE DOWN IN 55-HUNDRED FOOT RANGE.

TED SIMONS: WE GOT LA NINA, LA NINA IS WORKING ITS CHARMS HERE. WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT THE SUMMER AND DO WE HAVE ANY HINTS ABOUT NEXT WINTER ALREADY?

RANDY CERVENY: UNFORTUNETLY WHAT GOES ON IN THE WINTER DOESN'T REALLY IMPACT OUR SUMMER. WE TRIED FOR YEARS TO SEE IF THERE IS ANY KIND OF RELATIONSHIP. WE HAVE NEVER FOUND ANYTHING THAT REALLY WORKS THAT WELL. WHAT WE ARE FINDING IS THAT THIS VERY PERSISTENT PATTERN IS SLOWLY BREAKING UP. THAT'S SOME GOOD NEWS BECAUSE IF IT CONTINUES TO BREAK UP INTO THE SPRING AND SUMMER WE MAY GET INTO AN EL NINO SITUATION BY NEXT WINTER AND GENEREALLY IF YOU ARE A BETTING PERSON, EL NINO LEADS TO WEATHER CONDITIONS.

TED SIMONS: EL NINO IS KIND OF SCATTERED ALL OVER THE PLACE. WE MIGHT EVEN KNOW BY THE SUMMERTIME WHETHER THINGS CAN BE BETTER THE FOLLOWING WINTER.

RANDY CERVENY: IF YOU REMEMBER A FEW YEARS BACK, I WENT ON LINE AND SAID WE WERE GOING TO HAVE THE WETEST WINTER WE’D EVER HAD AND IT FELL APART BUT WE DO KNOW THINGS ABOUT EL NINO SOMETIMES AS MUCH AS SIX MONTHS BEFORE IT HAPPENS.

TED SIMONS: WOW. WELL WE HOPE FOR SOME GOOD RAIN THIS WEEK AND WE’LL SEE HOW YOU TAKE IT FROM THERE. GOOD TO SEE YOU. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

Randy Cerveny: ASU Climatologist

5 woman performing for the Celtic Woman 20th Anniversary
airs Feb. 29

Celtic Woman 20th Anniversary Concert

A cute little duckling with text reading: Arizona PBS Ducks in a Row Event
March 6

Getting Your Ducks in a Row to Avoid Conflict When You Are Gone

A cactus blooms in the Sonoran Desert
airs Feb. 28

Desert Dreams: Celebrating Five Seasons in the Sonoran Desert

Barry Gibb singing (Bee Gees: In Our Own Time)
aired Feb. 24

Bee Gees: In Our Own Time

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: