Mar 7, 2014 7:50 PM by John Patrick
TUCSON - El Nino Watch issued for this summer could lead to a dry monsoon.
Over 50% of the state of Arizona is under severe drought conditions including the city of Tucson. If an El Nino pattern kicks in by this summer that number could climb before it gets better.
Barbara Jackson's family has been in the cattle business for 50 years, operating Vaquero Feed and Livestock Supply and the Red Rock Feed Lot since 1964. She says it's getting harder and harder for ranchers to make ends meet.
"The price hay, the price of grain, the price of everything to feed animals has gone up. It makes it tough," explains Jackson.
The cattle industry already has already been hit hard by the ongoing drought and the local ranchers are in need of spring and summer rains.
Jackson says, "I already hear the customers from my feed store saying 'boy if we don't get any rain we're going to be in trouble ya know.' If we don't get those summer monsoons it hurts."
News 4 Tucson Meteorologist Jeff Beamish says El Nino is basically the warming of the sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific and that can have an impact on weather patterns from coast to coast.
For southern Arizona that above average ocean temperature could lead to less instability and possibly less thunderstorm activity during the monsoon.
University of Arizona Climatologist Gregg Garfin suggests that this pattern may not only increase drought conditions but add to the wildfire potential as well.
"If it delayed the onset of the monsoon that would be the biggest impact and we could end up with fires flaring up," explains Garfin.
A best case scenario would be for El Nino development to hold off until the winter months when southern Arizona can go from drought to downpours.
Beamish says, "El Nino during the winter months is a great thing. In fact, the last time we had El Nino was 2009-2010 and we picked up over 4 inches of rain here in Tucson."
As with any forecast El Nino development is not a sure thing. Two years ago a watch was issued but never came to be.