Climate Preparedness: El Nino

Nov. 14, 2023

El Nino is a weather phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean, which pushes warm air toward the west coast of the US. When this warm air, known as the Pacific jet stream, pushes across the Southern US, it leads to extreme weather events and increased rainfall in this region. Changes caused by El Nino have an impact on weather patterns across the entire country, and experts predict that this year’s El Nino will be much stronger and will continue throughout early 2024.  

Warming of the ocean’s surface is thought to have led to Arizona experiencing a record-breaking heatwave this past summer. Arizona is not in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) zone of predicted warmer temperatures from December–February, which will impact most of the US coastal and northern regions. However, this does not mean that Arizona is in the clear, it simply means that there is an equal chance of experiencing similar, above-average, or below-average temperatures this winter. No state in the US is expected to face colder-than-average temperatures this year, though northern Arizona is expected to see slightly more rainfall than average. 

With a late monsoon start and ongoing drought conditions across much of Arizona, wetter weather is greatly appreciated. NOAA does not expect the small change in rainfall to change our state’s drought outlook, though the Arizona Department of Water Resources hopes a strong El Nino will also increase rain across southern Arizona. NOAA uses weather prediction models based on daily recordings taken across the world and decades of previous observations. Recent extreme weather phenomena are more difficult to predict, so meteorologists cannot know exactly what this year’s El Nino will bring for Arizona. It is important for individuals and families to stay prepared for any unusual weather events. 


Flooding has been a major safety issue with increased rainfall during the monsoon season. There are many ways to prepare yourself, your home, and your family for flooding conditions. The National Weather Service has several resources for information on flood preparation, what to do during a flood, and what to do after a flood. The Coconino County website also has useful information about flood safety, which you can view here.  If your home is impacted by flooding, it is very important to clean it properly to remove biohazards and prevent the growth of mold. Click here(SPANISH LINK) to view US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) flood cleanup recommendations. 

 The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides flood insurance to owners and renters across the nation. NFIP has partnered with over 20,000 communities to provide flood insurance and implement floodplain management plans. Click here to learn more information about NFIP and read answers to FAQs about the program. Click here to visit the Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions’ page about NFIP, which provides more information about policies and coverage.  

Staying Warm – Fireplace Safety 

Colder temperatures may mean more time spent indoors next to a cozy fire. However, fires can be very dangerous, causing property damage and threatening lives of everyone in the household if precautions are not followed. Be sure to inspect your fireplace before use to ensure everything is in proper working condition, and ensure the chimney is clean, and not blocked from the inside or the outside. You should keep a functional fire extinguisher in your home and practice using it so you are prepared for a fire emergency. 

For your safety, you should NEVER: 

  • Use gasoline, a charcoal lighter, or other fuel to light a fire
  • Keep flammable fuels or liquids near a fire 
  • Burn charcoal, coal, trash, or other materials in a fire 
  • Overload the fireplace with wood or other materials 
  • Allow children to play near fires
  • Always make sure your fire is completely out before leaving your home unattended or going to sleep. 

Click here to see a complete list of fire safety recommendations from the City of Tempe. The Arizona Fire and Medical Authority offers free home safety checks to assess your home’s fire safety. To request a home safety check by the Authority, please call (623) 544-5400. Click here to learn more about what will be inspected during the safety check