Arizona Horizon Banner

March 26, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

El Nino Weather Pattern

  |   Video
  • Meteorologists are suggesting possibility of a developing “El Nino” weather pattern, which means that Arizona could be in store for a wetter than normal winter. Arizona State Climatologist Nancy Selover will tell us more.
  • Nancy Selover - State Climatologist, Arizona
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: environment, el nino, weather, pattern, winter, arizona ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Meteorologists are suggesting the possibility of a developing El Nino weather pattern, which means Arizona could be in store for a wetter than normal winter. Joining us now is the state climatologist for Arizona, Nancy Selover.
Nancy Selover: God to see you.

Ted Simons: And I'm just -- I'm happy to hear that El Nino is a possibility. First of all, tell us what is El Nino?

Nancy Selover: El Nino is a circulation pattern where we get warmer than normal waters in the Equatorial Pacific, and that allows us potentially to get a stream of subtropical moisture that comes underneath that high pressure and catches the lower tier of the U.S.

Ted Simons: So instead of going above us, and we just get a dry winter like we've had, we get tropical moisture during the winter.

Nancy Selover: Yes.

Ted Simons: And this is because of what, weaker trade winds?

Nancy Selover: The trade winds move from east to west, and so they weaken and we end up getting more of the warm water from the eastern Pacific to move to the central Pacific.

Ted Simons: So --

Nancy Selover: Western Pacific to the central Pacific.

Ted Simons: What are meteorologists seeing right now?

Nancy Selover: We've been in a La Nina situation where we have colder weather there in the Equatorial Pacific and we're starting to see the development of little bit warmer water, we thought this was going to happen this past winter as well. But about October it just sort of fizzled out and went away.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask that, is it possible we could see an El Nino forming now and then by the time El Nino is supposed to appear, later in the year, it's all kaput?

Nancy Selover: Yes, that's possible. We've had that happen.

Ted Simons: Is it likely?

Nancy Selover: I don't know. Right now the confidence that we have that El Nino is going to form is not real high. The climate prediction center is putting out all their outlooks through the next months, as being equal chances of a wet or dry year for us.

Ted Simons: The idea of an El Nino forming in the southern hemisphere in the next few months, how does that play into what happens to us, again, later in the year? What is that dynamic all about?

Nancy Selover: It's just the ability to tap into that subtropical moisture and if we get that, we still have to have storm systems form, just because we have moisture doesn't mean we'll get any rain. So we really need -- It's the possibility of being able to tap into that additional moisture.

Ted Simons: And the rain here in the United States would mean Arizona, California, how far north?

Nancy Selover: Kind of the -- It's the lower tier of states. It might catch southern Colorado, southern Utah, but definitely Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and the southeast as well.

Ted Simons: Because these are tropical -- This is tropical air, does that mean higher snow level, and is that necessarily a good thing for Arizona?

Nancy Selover: If we can get the precipitation at the moment I am not too concerned about whether -- Exactly where that snow line is, because if we get a cold enough weather system, we will end up with snow as opposed to rain.

Ted Simons: El Nino, obviously right now, we would take it in a heartbeat. However, if it's a strong El Nino, you could be looking at some flooding, you could see mudslides, a lot of damage too.

Nancy Selover: Sure. Southern California and much of California has that as a big problem for them. We don't quite have as much flooding here from the winter precipitation.

Ted Simons: As far as Atlantic hurricanes, do I understand fewer of those with an El Nino? Or do we know that?

Nancy Selover: I don't really know that. I'm not an expert on that, so I'm not going to put my neck out there.

Ted Simons: Again, still no guarantee of an El Nino, but it's worth watching.

Nancy Selover: Oh, yes. It's definitely worth watching, and cross your fingers.

Ted Simons: When will we be more sure?

Nancy Selover: September-October when we see, have we really swung that direction. But even earlier in the summer we'll see if we're starting to swing towards those much higher than normal temperatures in the sea surface in the Equatorial Pacific.

Ted Simons: Do those temperatures have anything to do at all with our monsoon?

Nancy Selover: No.

Ted Simons: Not a bit?

Nancy Selover: No.

Ted Simons: Every year I get you guys on and I try to figure out how can we predict the monsoon? And you always say, there's no way to do it.

Nancy Selover: We have yet to find a way to do it there. Are very short-termTELE connections is that happen, but they're on the order of days out. If we see one of those we can have a good idea we might be getting wetter in that short period, but this far we don't have a good clue.

Ted Simons: El Nino, La Nina and the neutral in the middle, absolutely nothing, either before or after a monsoon season.

Nancy Selover: Right.

Ted Simons: That's no fun.

Nancy Selover: I know.

Ted Simons: That's foot going to help us.

Nancy Selover: I know.

Ted Simons: You can tell us about the next few months in the spring, and it sounds like we're going to be hot and dry?

Nancy Selover: We're looking like we could be hot and dry. There were a couple models, different models that predict things, and two of them thought we might have a wet may. I'm not going to hang my hat on two of the . Because we couldn't really see why they were saying that.

Ted Simons: So it's going to be warmer and it's going to be -- Dryer than usual, or just dry period?

Nancy Selover: Just dry period. We don't have a signal of wetter or dryer or normal monsoon. We turned out to be a wet monsoon last year, that was good, because we've had this will be our third dry winter in a row.

Ted Simons: Not only that, but did I read this was the second warmest winter on record for Arizona?

Nancy Selover: I believe it is, yes.

Ted Simons: So what is going on? In the grand scheme of things, in the ,-foot view of our weather pattern, what's going on?

Nancy Selover: Well, this winter we had that huge high pressure that set up off the coast of the -- Off the West Coast, and that caused all the storm systems to go over the top, and then they'd come down on the other side of the Rockies, and then they'd sweep through and they would suck in that cold Arctic air. So they were really cold and snowy, yet here we are under high pressure, nice clear skies. Sunny conditions.

Ted Simons: Is that a La Nina or a neutral pattern?

Nancy Selover: This was neutral.

Ted Simons: Because La Nina usually ends up with stuff like that.

Nancy Selover: Yeah. We've had wet La Ninas, we've had dry El Ninos, and wet neutrals.

Ted Simons: So a state climatologist, are you -- Do you feel more confident every year? Is the science and the research and the data, is it improving every year on this kind of thing?

Nancy Selover: We're discovering more and more little nuances with the teleconnections, so we'll be able to do a little better at our forecasting, but when there's no signal there, there's really no way to read anything into it.

Ted Simons: And as far as the drought is concerned, it continues regardless of El Nino, La Nina, or all points in between.

Nancy Selover: Yes. Because we've had -- We're somewhere in the neighborhood of the th year of drought, and that doesn't mean all years have been dryer than normal. We had really wet years. But they're sporadic. A nice winter would be good, but we need several in a row to bring us back.

Ted Simons: Is there any indication that it's going to end soon? Historically, how long have these droughts gone in Arizona?

Nancy Selover: In the mid s to the mid s was about years.

Ted Simons: Oh, my goodness.

Nancy Selover: In recorded history we have had them longer than this. Way before that in the s there was a -year drought. So we're hoping that's not where we are.

Ted Simons: Indeed. As far as wetter than normal, do those last as long, or is drought usually lasting longer?

Nancy Selover: They're kind of similar. The mid 70's to the mid 90's, about year fairly wet before and before the 40's we had about , really wet period as well.

Ted Simons: We'll keep an eye on El Niño and hope for the best. It's good to have you here.

Nancy Selover: Thanks.

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Ben Giles from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly political update.
  • Ben Giles - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
Category: Legislature   |   Keywords: legislative, update, legislature, state, capitol,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," the latest political news in our weekly update with the "Arizona Capitol Times." Also tonight, Arizona could be looking at an El Nino weather pattern for later this year. And Phoenix tons gather input for walkable communities along the light rail line.
Those stories next, on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The battle over the budget continues at the state capitol. Here with more in our weekly political update is Ben Giles of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Ben, it's good to see you. The battle is a phrase, it's a term, and we expected some pushing and shoving and fighting and biting, it's getting ear owe serious down there.

Ben Giles: The battle has come to a standstill portion, I guess, where you have six moderate Republicans in the house who are stalling any progress whatsoever because they don't agree with the roughly 9.18 billion dollar budget that the senate sent to the house last Thursday. They want more spending in areas like CPS, particularly in education, they object to some of the cuts to education that are -- Or rollbacks that is proposed, and they actually came out and had an impromptu press conference to say there's no deal still, and there's no negotiating to be done because we're not going to stand for these cuts.

Ted Simons: Basically the senate had its budget, sent it to the house, that budget a no-go, so much of a no-go that we've now got a group of six Republican lawmakers in the house saying we're serious about this stuff.

Ben Giles: Yeah. And six is just enough to prevent house speaker Andy Tobin from getting the votes he needs from his Republican caucus in the house to send the budget out and maybe back to the senate in something that could go to the governor's desk pretty quickly. It appears now as long as this group of six moderate Republicans and the rest of the caucus both in the house and the senate can't come to an agreement, there's no end in sight.

Ted Simons: So when the senate sent the budget over to the house, did the house look at it and hear the concerns of the moderates and send something, maybe a counter off back to the senate?

Ben Giles: Not particularly. The budget as it was supposed to go to the floor on Monday, no one really knew who was going to vote how. From what we've been told, no one in the house is really counting votes, even within the GOP caucus before they sent the budget to the floor to see how it was going to shake out. And it didn't take them long to figure out that there's enough of a block of Republicans in their own party that are saying, we can't go for this, we're going to vote against this. So rather than have it be defeated on the floor they pulled the plug Monday. And every day since then it's just been a waiting game to see are negotiations going well, has there been any progress? We've been told that the six Republicans sent a counteroffer to Tobin and senate president Andy Biggs saying this is what we want the budget to look like. That was rejected. And now a counteroffer from Biggs and Tobin we're told was sent to the moderate Republicans, that was rejected. So we're going nowhere.

Ted Simons: And again, this is a seat that post-CPS, the new child welfare a factor, it sounds like the bigger factor is education, specifically the idea of public K- schools starting charter schools in order to get more state money. Talk to us about this.

Ben Giles: Just in the last fiscal year, there were schools operated -- Public schools guy districts converted to what are known as district sponsored charter schools. And the benefit they get is in addition to having access to the local districts K- education funding, they also get chart school money from the general fund. Senate president Andy Biggs has said that's an inequity in the funding of schools because the per pupil funding a district sponsored charter school gets is more than a public school student and more than a normal charter school student. So his argument is been if you want to be a charter school, act like a charter school and deal with the constraints a charter school has to.

Ted Simons: I think it's like a thousand dollars more per pupil.

Ben Giles: Roughly more, yes.

Ted Simons: And which makes for an interesting argument. You're hearing the senate president, a very much a conservative Andy Biggs, opting against school choice?

Ben Giles: It was that, in appropriations in the senate on Tuesday, you had lawmakers actually questioning if there was going to be kind of a competition for students in districts as more and more they anticipate opt for district sponsored charter schools to get more funding. And some superintendents who came to testify were kind of aghast because the thought is school choice and innovation in schools, which is what these charter schools are doing, that's exactly the kind of thing that Republicans always talk about when they say this is how we want to improve schools. So to now have the senate president proposing initially a $33 million rollback of funds for that program, retroactive to July 1st,2013, that would mean the schools would have to go back to being public schools. But now he's also proposing just a more widespread change to the funding of that program, that would basically discourage any school from doing it in the future.

Ted Simons: And we should note that one of the major areas that would be impacted here is where a certain lawmaker, her district happens to be. Talk to us about this. Some people say this as retaliation by the senate president.

Ben Giles: In fact, the senate president did say on Monday when he introduced this bill to change the governance, change the funding of district sponsored charter schools, he was doing so essentially as a threat to the house, where you had representative Heather Carter sponsoring a measure to take out his rollback of the $33 million that the president says I'm not sure we want to spend on this program, her amendment did also include a moratorium so that schools couldn't convert, but -- And that would give the schools and the state a time to study the issue. But it wasn't enough for senate president Biggs and kind of furious that the rollback might be removed, his threat is this bill, which democrats and these moderate Republicans say would be far worse than the program.

Ted Simons: Yeah. So you basically -- You've got democrats who are saying, go charter schools, move over to charter schools because at least the district gets more money. And you've got conservatives like Biggs saying, no, we don't need to see more of these kinds of -- What -- Education establishment, what are they thinking?

Ben Giles: The argument from senate president Biggs too is that this is the fiscally responsible thing to do, and depending on who you ask, there are estimates that more and more schools as you said are going to try and convert to gain access to this funding. Which admittedly they've been doing, because for the past three years or so billions of dollars have been cut from K- education funding. But as this program grows larger, the senate president has predicted in the next three years it could be a half billion dollar budget item. That is coming from the general fund that he fears Arizona won't be able to fund without increasing taxes.

Ted Simons: A vague ALT fuels feel from the dim and distant past. Last point, you said six moderate Republicans are a factor. Who are those six Republicans?

Ben Giles: Heather Carter, Kate Brophy Mcgee, Jeff dial, ethan ORR and bob Coleman. Those are our six.

Ted Simons: All right.

Ben Giles: And they say they also have a couple of other Republicans who share their concerns in the house, just maybe not willing to go public in a press conference as those six did this afternoon.

Ted Simons: Never a dull moment. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Ben Giles: Thank you.

Light Rail Walkable Communities

  |   Video
  • Phoenix city officials are conducting community workshops to get ideas and input regarding development along the city’s light rail line. The goal: to develop walkable communities that work in conjunction with mass transit. Alan Stephenson is the acting planning and development director for Phoenix and will discuss the effort.
  • Alan Stephenson - Director, Acting Planning and Development for City of Phoenix
Category: Community   |   Keywords: community, workshops, light rail, phoenix, city, transit,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Phoenix city officials are conducting community workshops to get ideas and input regarding development along the city's light rail line. The goal, to develop walkable communities that work in conjunction with mass transit. Alan Stephenson is the acting planning and development director for the city of Phoenix. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Alan Stephenson: Thank you.

Ted Simons: This is not necessarily -- This reinvent Phoenix thing has been going on a couple years.

Alan Stephenson: It is. We're in our second year of a multiyear grant effort from the department of housing and urban development, it's about a $. million grant to work in collaboration with other community partners to develop a walkable transit and development around our light rail stops.

Ted Simons: I think ASU and saint loops also involved in the process?

Alan Stephenson: Correct.

Ted Simons: When we talk about shaping development along light rail, what shapes are we looking at and how close to light rail?

Alan Stephenson: Well, we're looking about a quarter mile around each of the light rail stops. And we're looking at a more urban style of development that you would see typical of downtown, and other large cities where they have more urban and walkable development as opposed to our more typical suburban development standards, Phoenix has really been a picture perfect city related to suburban development, and this is a look at creating a new option and more of an urban style of development.

Ted Simons: When people hear about transit oriented development, what does that mean?

Alan Stephenson: It's really about creating development style that has a little bit more building height associated with a typically mix of uses, and it's a much more walkable pedestrian friendly environment that is easily accessible Via bicycles as well, more shade, it's a little bit easier to provide infrastructure and services from a city standpoint as well.

Ted Simons: And the focus would be what, from downtown Phoenix to Christown and out again to Sky Harbor?

Alan Stephenson: Yeah. There's two segments. From downtown to the city's eastern limits, which encompasses east lake Garfield and gateway areas, and then north of downtown which is three different areas to Bethany home south.

Ted Simons: That one that goes east along Washington, it seems to me there are stretches where there's note a stop for a long way. How do you get development and especially the walkable communities, bike riding, the whole nine yards when the stops are so few and far between?

Alan Stephenson: Well, you have to put in infrastructure to make it so people want to walk more. One of the key focus of this effort is to increase walkability. So that's done natural shade, like landscaping, but man made shade from overhangs and things from buildings, to make it more walkable and create a more inviting pedestrian environment so you have small buildings that break things up, a mix of uses that create some vitality along the street and what seems to be a very inhospitable walk isn't so.

Ted Simons: So if you're walking in shade the whole time, there's a coffee shop here and a restaurant there you don't ream eyes how far you've walked.

Alan Stephenson: Correct.

Ted Simons: Investment strategies, I know that's a big factor as well. Talk about the commercial involvement and what you're looking -- You're basically looking for ideas from everyone.

Alan Stephenson: Correct. Right now we're in a two-week planning process. We have our consultant in from out of state, and so we have a number of meetings over this two-week period. Our kickoff meeting was Monday night and we had about people attend. So we're getting a broad spectrum of the community to participate. One of our key partners is the urban land institute as well as local first Arizona. Both of those groups are focused on business and development, so they're helping us with that aspect as well.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing regarding concerns from business and development with what can be done and the challenges of getting things done along light rail?

Alan Stephenson: A couple of the things we're hearing are some infrastructure challenges related to existing infrastructure that's there, like water and sewer. Electric, some of those things that will have to work through with them. Some of the other challenges are really getting development -- Developers to understand the different style of development here and trying to get them to focus on building something that's a little bit different. It's done a lot of other cities, but it's different here for Phoenix. So we're working through a lot of those issues.

Ted Simons: You mentioned other cities, are there models in other cities that you're looking at or that you want folks to look at?

Alan Stephenson: Yeah, there are a number of other cities that have light rail lines that have been successful. There's one in San Diego, Denver, Portland, there are a lot of cities that have added those elements to their downtown areas, and then as you extend out, you have some more of that same kind of urban development.

Ted Simons: I asked about the input you've heard from the business community and -- For investment purposes, what are you hearing from just plain Joes and Janes, the citizens who really want to be a part, Burt they're there are stretches of light rail where there's not much going on right now.

Alan Stephenson: Some of the big things we're hearing, protect our historic neighborhoods, and kind of come up with some compatible design guidelines so you have interface from some of the taller buildings to existing neighborhoods. We're hearing a lot about making those areas walkable, pedestrian friendly, shade, bicycle friendly in terms of complete streets, that the city is undertaking as well. We are hearing a lot about local first and trying to get local businesses involved and make it successful for them, not just some of the larger chains and suburban shopping mall style.

Ted Simons: And when you talk about residential along the line, how close to the line could that be and what kind of residential are you hearing about? Are you talking about?

Alan Stephenson: For the most part it could be rental, apartment or condominiums woulds be ownership type of product. There's also some single-family attached style development that could be built. A little bit off the light rail line, that's kind of like a row house you might see in other cities, a little more urban, more dense than we see here, but it still allows for an ownership style development.

Ted Simons: Someone has an idea or they want to get involved in this, how do they get involved?

Alan Stephenson: We have a website, They can go there and find out all kinds of information about this. We also have upcoming workshops, including one tonight. If you're a resident or property owner tonight at 6 p.m. at the Phoenix financial center, which is the northeast corner of central and Osborne, we have a workshop at 6 p.m., if you're close by you can race over there. We also have workshops coming up on this Friday, again, the same place,6 to 8 p.m. is the mid term report where the consultants will give us what they came up with for the first week. And a couple other meetings next week on Tuesday, April 1st there's a local first meeting that's being put on for local businesses, that's 6 to 8 p.m. and the following Friday on April 4 th, to p.m. the consultant will unveil their designs for the final two-week process.

Ted Simons: And all that is information on the website?

Alan Stephenson: Correct.

Ted Simons: Last question, when dot workshops end and the action begins?

Alan Stephenson: So the workshops will end on April 4 th, and then the consultant will take that final about it of input they did, go away to finalize the design and development our walkable urban code and come up with parking strategies to help us, and those things will be brought back to get additional public input, and then adoption by council in the fall end of the year.

Ted Simons: All right. Great information. Good to have you here.

Alan Stephenson: Thank you.

Ted Simons: That is it for now I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.