El Nino may be forming

Late winter, early spring could be wetter than normal

KINGMAN - Sales of umbrellas and rainwear may increase this winter.

Weather experts say an El Nino pattern has begun in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon is marked by warmer waters from the western Pacific moving eastward to a point off the coast of Peru, where surface temperatures rise by as much as two degrees.

"That surface warming can result in changes in storm patterns and could bring us good winter rains," said Randy Cerveny, professor of geography at Arizona State University.

"The Climate Prediction Center (in Silver Spring, Md.) now says the first part of winter will be dry, as El Nino is not getting its act together too quickly. However, by February, March and April, we could see more rain in the Southwest."

An El Nino in the eastern Pacific often leads to a milder Atlantic hurricane season and that has been the case now as compared to last year, Cerveny said.

"We're moving into a weak El Nino at present," said John Salmen, a staff meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Las Vegas. "By the time winter is here, it could be a more moderate one, which could point to a wetter winter."

Data supplied by the ASU Office of Climatology indicates Kingman Airport received .31 inches of rain in August. That was far below the normal 1.44 inches expected.

"That was due to the way the synoptic pattern set up," Salmen said. "It was an unusual year where the monsoon high pressure ridge set up further east and fed moisture into eastern part of the state and New Mexico."

The change in the normal pattern led to one of the heaviest monsoons of the past 100 years for Phoenix and Tucson, Cerveny said.

The monsoon season began July 2 in central Arizona and ended Sept. 14, making the season 75 days long.

Rain gauges operated and maintained by the Mohave County Department of Public Works indicate much of the immediate Kingman area received between two and three inches of rain during the monsoon season. Higher mountains and some outlying locations received more.

"That sounds a little lower than what you normally should get, but it's fairly close," Cerveny said. "Phoenix normally gets 2-3 inches, and for any area along the (Mogollon) rim, that's pretty good."

It was neither an exceptionally wet nor dry monsoon season in northwest Arizona, Salmen said.

Kingman Airport typically receives .73 inches of rain in September, according to climatology data. Public Works gauges indicate .79 inches has been recorded there thus far this month.

Salmen said Arizona occasionally experiences the remnants of a Pacific hurricane or tropical storm during the second half of hurricane season through Nov. 30. However, stronger systems moving down from the Pacific Northwest tend to suppress moisture trying to move north from Mexico.

Cerveny does not totally agree.

"During October, a lot of our rain comes from the remnants of hurricanes and tropical storms," Cerveny said.

"However, the last decent tropical storm with winds of 50 mph or more to come through Arizona was Tropical Storm Dora in 1996."

Whatever tropical moisture does enter Arizona in the next month will prevent the transition from monsoon season to winter storms from being overly dry, he added.

Salmen and Cerveny both say temperatures in the Kingman area should be above normal for the next 90 days.

Average maximum and minimum temperatures, plus rainfall amounts, are as follows: for October, 77.2 and 49.9 degrees, .73 inches; in November, 63.7 and 38.7 with .74 inches; for December, 54.8 and 31.8 with .94 inches.

"If any tropical storms comes through, we may get dumped on with rain, but that is always hard to forecast," Cerveny said.

Rainfall for the next 90 days should be slightly below normal, Salmen said.