El Nino Could Bring Normal Weather Patterns Back to Southern California Next Winter

Article excerpt

An El Nino could materialize in the central Pacific next winter, bringing waves of drought-buster rainstorms and a return to normal winter weather patterns to Southern California, national forecasters predicted Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an official El Nino watch Thursday afternoon. A panel of NOAA climate forecasters say models show there is a 50-50 chance an El Nino will develop this summer or fall.

An El Nino is a warming of the waters in the tropical Pacific that can bend the jet stream over California and North America and bring a string of rainstorms. The last El Nino occurred in 1997- 1998, drenching Los Angeles with a record 31.01 inches of rain, twice the average annual rainfall.

Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who wasn't part of NOAA's forecast, agreed that an El Nino is brewing.

"This could be a substantial event and I think we're due," Trenberth said. "And I think it could have major consequences."

But Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Silver Springs, Md., said there is no guarantee the El Nino will form. In 2012, an El Nin/o percolated under the surface of the ocean but fizzled.

In fact, the last four El Ninos have been weak or moderate and did not significantly affect overall weather patterns, Halpert said.

Scientists from NOAA in Maryland and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge said it is too soon to predict the magnitude of this El Nino.

"They come in small, medium and large," said Bill Patzert, climatologist with JPL and a member of the NOAA diagnostic team that issued the El Nino watch. …