Relief may be on the way for California's severe drought.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday an El Niño climate pattern is likely to develop by this fall. But weather experts warn to take the news with a grain of salt as Mother Nature is often unpredictable.
"What we don't know yet -- is it going to be a weak event or a strong event?" said Jan Null, a meteorologist with the Golden Gate Weather Services. "Each of those has very different consequences, especially if we want to look in the contest of rainfall for California."
A strong El Niño can mean a stormy winter along parts of the west coast, a wet winter across the south and a warmer than average winter for parts of the north, officials said.
Weather experts, however, said it is important to keep in mind the possible scenarios are based on the long-term average of 22 El Ninos in the past 55 years.
"It doesn't always mean we are going to get above normal rainfall," Null said. "It sort of bumps up the probabilities, but it's not a sure thing."
Firefighters are hopeful for more rain to combat the drought.
"Right now we are watching, hopeful, but we're not changing anything as far as how we are operating coming into this fire season," said Brandon Leitzke, a Cal Fire battalion chief.