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Climate expert: No easy way out of Arizona drought

PHOENIX -- Arizona has been in a drought for 17 years and Arizona State University climate expert Randy Cerveny said it's now completely in the hands of Mother Nature as to when it will all end.

Things don't get better when the Valley received only one rainstorm over the entire winter. Cerveny said, without that March 1 soaking, we'd be in desperate shape but it didn't put a dent in the drought.

"That storm helped a bit but we need many more storms that dump a lot of snow," he said.

The state's snowpack is almost non-existent. But Cerveny said there's some hope on the horizon that we will not see a repeat of this winter.

"We are all hoping in the weather industry for El Nino, the warming of the Pacific Ocean waters which shifts the storm track so the storms are more likely to come into Arizona than go up into the northwest."

But he said even a serious El Nino event won't bring an end to Arizona's drought.

As for the changing climate's impact on our drought, the jury is still out.

"When you have one of the most complex systems that we can study, the climate system, trying to tease out what is natural variability and what is human variability is very difficult," said Cerveny. "The best that we can do is put it into computer models and those models tell us how the effects we are seeing will be magnified in the future."

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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