El Niño will cause Valley more rain, says ASU meteorologist

Metro Phoenix and the Pacific Northwest are generally not mentioned in the same breath, unless it is to demonstrate their lack of similarities.

That may now change, as the Valley is slated to receive much heavier rainfall in the coming months, almost resembling the notoriously rainy Northwestern region, Randy Cerveny, president's professor at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning,  said. 

"We're gonna have the storms that Seattle normally has," he said. "The storm track moves for El Niño — storms that normally come along in the Northwest Pacific coast are instead moving down to California and Arizona."

Cerveny was quick to mention that the Valley will not be nearly as rainy as the trademark cities of the country's Northwestern region. He states the storms will mostly dry out by the time they reach the Southwest. However, there will be considerably more rain than is typical for the region. 

"El Niño," he said, "is a massive warming of the equatorial Pacific." 

Once every five to seven years, the region heats up much more than usual, causing the shift in storms.

Cerveny says the warming is not directly due to man-made climate change, although it will contribute to global warming because of the intensity of the temperature rise in the Pacific. 

Short term, he said there will be more rain in the Valley and snow in the northern part of the state. This will cause a more flowery desert than usual, which can then lead to more intense brush fires. However, the rainfall will help remedy the drought in Arizona and California.

"When I first arrived, it was 117 degrees, about 20 degrees hotter than it ever got at home," McVeety said. "So it's an interesting change from the monotonous weather we usually get in Phoenix."

McVeety said rain was pretty much a constant phenomenon in Oregon — heavy downpours during the winter, and clouds and drizzle for much of the rest of the year. 

He said he likes the rain and welcomes the meteorological shift the Valley is experiencing. 

The change may be even more jarring for Valley locals, who are generally quite accustomed to pervasive aridity. 

Kaylyn McAnally, an exercise and wellness freshman from Scottsdale, said she's not as keen on the rain as some others might be. 

"I like (the dryness); I like the sunshine," she said. "I never mind that it never seems to rain here," she said. "I know the weather is good for us. It's unusual. It rains so much during monsoon season, but not so much during the winter like it is now."

Related Link:

Tempe, Phoenix clean up after stormy night


Reach the reporter at Arren.Kimbel-Sannit@asu.edu or follow @akimbelsannit on Twitter.

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