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Government and Politics

Likelihood of an El Niño increasing for California later this year

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NOAA
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The latest scientific survey by the Climate Prediction Center shows increasing odds that California will experience El Nino conditions this coming fall and winter.

The report released Thursday morning bumps the likelihood of an El Nino developing up to 65 percent by the end of summer and gives it a 78 percent chance of developing by the end of the year.

The term El Nino refers to a condition where warmer than average ocean surface temperatures develop in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America along the equator.

During strong El Nino years, California sees much wetter than average rainy months, which would be welcomed news in our drought-stricken state. However, scientists aren't saying we'll have a wet winter just yet.

"We should be cautiously optimistic," said Logan Johnson with the National Weather Service in Monterey. "We do see very strong indications now that we will have an El Nino develop later this year, so that much we're feeling pretty confident right now."

Johnson says weak El Nino years can actually produce the reverse effect with dryer than average conditions, so the promise of an El Nino isn't necessarily good news. It's the strength of the event that makes the difference and we won't know that for several months still.

"That's the key factor for California right now," said Johnson.

Officially, we're in what's known as an El Nino watch and will only move into an El Nino advisory once the conditions actually start to develop, which could happen within the next few months.