El Nino is Roaring Back, But There Might Be An Upside

July 10th 2015

Nicole Charky

The solution to California's four-year drought could come as rainy relief known as El Niño. Scientists say that recent extreme weather in Texas and Oklahoma shows the state might see a wet, cold climate in fall and winter. 

"It will be the 'great wet hope' and it will deliver a wet winter," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories told ABC7.  ​

El Niño is the unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator that brings large amounts of rain, and in 1997 and 1998, was responsible for torrential downpours, destructive flooding, and mudslides throughout Southern California.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, El Niño conditions are now present. Climatologists predict there is a 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through fall 2015; there is a 85 percent chance it will continue through winter 2015, into 2016.

An El Nino year could make a big impact on ending California's drought. 

"That's good news for California," Mike Halpert, deputy director for NOAA's climate prediction center in College Park, Maryland, tells San Jose Mercury News. "There are obviously no guarantees, but above-normal rainfall is becoming more likely."

People affected by the drought understand that it is not just about rising food prices, uglier lawns, shorter showers, and dirtier cars. Californians were issued strict water mandates in April, limiting their use of the natural resource. The restrictions so far have been successful, with nearly 29 percent of the state reducing its water use, but dry spells are predicted to become more common in the coming years.

Historically, strong El Niños have been linked to rainy weather in California and throughout South America -- and droughts in Australia and Asia. Peru declared an El Niño emergency recently and warned that flooding could begin this summer, as Citigroup and the United Nations warned about potential price increases in wheat and other food staples. These would result in decreased harvests in Australia and other countries.