We've been hearing for a while now that a big El Niño is brewing in the Pacific and likely to dump a very wet winter on Southern California, but now we're getting an idea of just how big it might be. Earlier in the month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate team noted that the rise of the Pacific Ocean's temperatures along the equator (a major factor in El Niño prediction) were second only to the El Niño that hit in 1997-1998, one of the strongest El Niños since 1977. That could mean that this year's El Niño turns out to be the second-strongest in about 40 years, says the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
The 1997-1998 event showed a temperature rise of almost 2 degrees Celsius in the Pacific; NOAA measures that this year's potential El Niño has warmed the oceans 1.7 degrees Celsius. The other huge El Niño SoCal's seen in the past few decades, the 1982-1983 event, caused $8 billion in damages and ripped the roof off the Los Angeles Convention Center. This year's El Niño looks to be stronger than that one. Comparisons between the massive 1997-1998 El Niño and the one potentially brewing for this year have been floating around since September, when side-by-side video of the two weather phenomena forming made the similarities pretty clear.
"Yes, for that time of year (August-October 2015), it was the second strongest," the deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Maryland tells the SGVT. The most recent numbers indicate that there's a 95 percent chance that a "strong El Niño" will hit the Northern Hemisphere starting in December and going through March. The deputy director did note that his agency's El Niño forecast won't be ready until December 4, at which time new information will be available that might show otherwise.
During both of the last two major El Niños, California got an average of 31 inches of rain—double its 15-inch, Los Angeles Almanac average. Though it wouldn't solve the drought completely, a bunch of rain could be fantastic for the drought-stricken state, which only received 6 to 8.6 inches of rain each year over the last four years. But since rain might also mean mudslides and flooding, it's not all good news that a super-strong El Niño could be on the way.
· El Nino may be second strongest in nearly 40 years [SGVT]
· Watch the Enormous El Niño Growing in the Pacific Right Now [Curbed LA]
· What Do You Need to Know About El Niño? These 10 Things. [Curbed Ski]