NOAA: Strong Chance El Nino Will Continue Into Winter

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has updated its El Niño forecast and it is looking more promising for California.

NOAA now says that there is a 90 percent chance the El Niño continues into the fall and an 85 percent chance it continues into the winter.

In order for the El Niño to help put a dent in California’s drought in a meaningful way, history suggests it must fall into the very strong category, which means a sea surface temperature anomaly of over 2 degrees Celsius.

The last time there was a very strong El Niño was in the winter of 1997-98. During that winter, San Francisco received more than double its annual rainfall total, with 47.19". That winter was the second wettest on record and had the most rainy days in history.

In order to truly put a dent in the drought, the state’s frozen reservoirs - the Sierra - need to receive copious amounts of snow. Snow lovers should rejoice, as Alpine Meadows picked up 11.5 feet of snow in February of 1998, on the way to a seasonal total of 44 feet.

None of this, however, is a done deal, as weak to moderate El Niños do not portend to a exceptionally wet season and even half of the strong category El Niños have dropped below average rain totals.

"While the forecast looks good for El Nino to develop it must be watched closely as late spring predictions have several months to shift," says NBC Bay Area Chief Meteorologist Jeff Raineri.

In the interim, it is important to remember to conserve water as the drought will worsen over the summer.

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