El Niño expected to bring heavy rain to Arizona, California

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(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

If Arizona’s monsoon rains have seemed pretty lackluster this summer, experts believe something brewing in the ocean could bring a bigger bang in the coming months.

"This is looking like it is going to be one of the biggest El Niño events we have seen in the last 30 to 40 years," said Randy Cerveny, a professor of geographical sciences at Arizona State University.

El Niño is a phenomenon characterized by the warming of ocean waters in the Equatorial Pacific: Think west of Peru. This happens roughly every three years and can dramatically change weather patterns across the globe.

Cerveny recalled one of the more notable El Niños happening in 1998.

"We had an incredibly strong El Niño that dumped tons of rain on Los Angeles and actually even here in Phoenix, we got double the normal amount of wintertime precipitation," Cerveny said.

Cerveny predicts this current El Niño will be stronger and may mean more hurricanes developing off the coast of Mexico, tracking towards the Southwest U.S.

RELATED: Worldwide strengthening El Niño giveth and taketh away

"I expect that this fall, given how active the Pacific is, and how warm it is, we are going to see a lot of that moisture move in to help promote fall rain fall here," Cerveny said.

While El Niño could be a soaker for Arizona and help alleviate some of the California drought, Oregon and Washington won't be so lucky.

"El Niño for the northwest part of the country, they're probably going to be drought conditions," Cerveny said.

While we could expect tropical moisture with warmer temperatures in Arizona, the El Niño of 1998 proved to be a big snow maker for the higher elevations.

According to the National Weather Service, Flagstaff received 120 inches of snow that winter. Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort reported 330 inches, which could mean an economic boom is ahead for ski season this winter.

Experts say El Niño should continue through at least winter of 2016.

AROUND AZ: 3TV 360 Camera Network

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