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El Nino drought-buster next winter? Long-term forecast

By Reginald Stanley. Posted September 1, 2015, 5:31 PM.

The Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Nino Advisory, indicating a greater than 85 percent chance that an El Nino will persist through the Spring of 2016.

Since 1950, three strong El Nino's have been officially observed - 1972-73, 1982-83, and 1997-98. All three winters had abnormally high rainfall in Southern California. As of September 1st, 2015, the current El Nino has already reached moderate status and is expected to strengthen even further going into the winter, according to computer forecast models. As a result, the Climate Prediction Center has predicted a 50 to 60 percent chance of above average rainfall in Southern California between December and March, typically the wettest months of our rainy season.

Historically, El Nino has been responsible for many very wet winters in California. The mere presence of an El Nino by itself does not guarantee a wet winter for Southern California, however. El Nino's of weak or moderate strength have resulted in below-average rainy seasons as well. The winter of 2014-15 featured a weak El Nino, yet rainfall was below average. On the other hand, 2004-05 also featured a weak El Nino, and was one of the wettest winters in recorded history.

A strong El Nino yields a very high chance of above-average rainfall in Southern California, although it is not guaranteed. Visit the Climate Prediction Center website for additional forecasts and information.

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