The greatest El Nino on record happened during the winter of 1997-98, when Southern California was saturated with twice the regular rainfall.

An El Niño – meaning in Spanish “the little boy, or Christ child” – is created when the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean warm significantly.

Patzert told the Times this could be more powerful than the 1997 El Niño, which is the strongest on record.

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) – Chances are strong that a record-setting El Nino is headed toward California this winter.

The current El Nino has, among other things, resulted in sea levels rising in the eastern Pacific and dropping in the west as easterly trade winds stall or reverse.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño, which would peak in late fall or early winter.El Nino affects the strength and position of the jet stream, tilting the odds for more rain than average along the West coast and in the Southeast during the winter.

“It’s important to bear in mind that the correlation between El Nino and precipitation are far from flawless, even in places with relatively high correlations such as Southern California and Arizona”, Werner said.

They’re cautiously optimistic. Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, says farmers aren’t fooled by a common misconception that El Nino always translates into a wet winter.

This year’s El Nino began in March and is forecast to last about a year.

Above-average temperatures are seen as likely in the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the northern U.S., as well as Alaska and Hawaii, he said. Of the seven years since 1950 with similar ENSO signals (1958, 1966, 1973, 1983, 1988, 1992, and 1998) three were wet years, one was average and three were dry (with water year 1992 perpetuating a drought). But that one started weaker and finished stronger, he said.

According to the most recent Drought Monitor from the National Drought Mitigation Center, most of Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and western Montana and New Mexico are now in moderate or exceptional drought.

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