Scientists: El Niño Event is a Strong Possibility

Could a wet winter be on the horizon?

The odds of ending the current Southern California drought just got a little better. Scientists say the El Niño is back.

"NOAA expects this El Niño to continue developing during the next several months, with further strengthening possible. The event is expected to last through winter 2009-10," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric website.

The arrival of the El Niño was announced Thursday by NOAA scientists as an alert to industries, governments and emergency agencies about the possible severe weather conditions this weather phenomenon could produce. 

Typically an El Niño event suppresses hurricane activity in the Atlantic, which so far is the case, with no major storms yet reported since the season started June 1.

For us, El Niño often causes major winter storms to pound Southern California while, at the same time, reducing precipitation to the northern tier of states across the country. 

While these storms can be damaging, causing widespread flooding and mudslides, they could also go a long way toward ending the current drought situation that is forcing local water restrictions. The last strong El Niño event took place during the winter of 1997-98 and delivered 20.89 inches of rain to downtown San Diego, which is twice the normal amount.

The term El Niño is believed to have originated with fisherman in South America.  Periodically, they would notice a fairly rapid change in their local environment: the ocean temperatures would warm a couple of degrees, it would rain less often and suddenly different kinds of fish would start showing up in their catches.  These odd events would usually peak around Christmas. In Spanish Christ is commonly refereed to as "The Child" which translates to "El Niño".

While scientists can't guarantee the coming winter will be wetter or stormier than normal, Thursday’s announcement at least opens the door of hope that our drought may be coming to an end.  

Check out San Diego's official, annual rainfall totals.

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