El Niño muscles up, a promising sign for a wet California winter

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This map shows the change in ocean water temperature above or below normal in Celsius. The warming ocean temperatures along the equator indicate the strengthening El Niño weather pattern, which if it persists and is strong through the winter, could help bring storms to California during its rainy season. (National Weather Service)

LOS ANGELES — Will California get a wet winter and maybe a little drought relief? Scientists are beginning to think so.

A new forecast seems to suggest that El Niño could start showing some strength in the fall, Los Angeles Times reported.

That could be good news down the road for California’s rainy season, according to the latest report from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

Now, it’s beginning to look unlikely that El Niño will weaken or disappear.

It’s “evolving nicely,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “Should we see a really strong event, that tilts the odds toward a wetter winter for you guys” in California.

The next few months will tell, he said, “whether this takes a life of its own … or this backs away a little bit.”

How strong El Niño will be by winter, which is California’s rainy season, is important. Very strong El Niños in the past — notably in the winters of 1982-83 and 1997-98 — have brought substantial rainfall to all of California.

Forecasters said there is now around an 85% chance that El Niño will persist through this winter.

El Niño is a weather phenomenon that refers to increasingly warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator that cause changes in the atmosphere. Those changes can have dramatic effects on weather patterns worldwide, from floods and mudslides in California to mild conditions in the Midwest.

By Rong-Gong Lin II of Los Angeles Times

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