NOAA: Thanks to El Niño, the U.S. Looks Pretty Wet This Winter - NBC Bay Area
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NOAA: Thanks to El Niño, the U.S. Looks Pretty Wet This Winter

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    These false-color images provided by NASA satellites compare warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures from the strong El Nino that brought North America large amounts of rainfall in 1997, left, and the current El Nino as of Oct. 1, 2015, right. Warmer ocean water that normally stays in the western Pacific, shown from cooler to warmer as lighter orange to red to white areas, moves east along the equator toward the Americas. Evidence is mounting that the El Nino ocean-warming phenomenon in the Pacific will spawn a rainy winter in California, potentially easing the state’s punishing drought but also bringing the risk of chaotic storms like those that battered the region in the late 1990s.

    Forecasters say this winter El Nino will leave a big wet but not necessarily snowy footprint on much of the United States, including parched California.

    The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration on Thursday issued its winter forecast, heavily influenced by one of the strongest El Ninos on record.

    NOAA expects a cooler and wetter winter for the South. California is forecast to get more than the usual precipitation during the critical time its reservoirs usually fill, but there's no guarantee. Only northern tier states, the Ohio Valley states and Alaska should be dry.

    Forecasters see a milder, warmer winter north of the Mason-Dixon line and for all of California and Nevada. Texas and the Deep South are forecast to be cold.