El Nino Heat Map

A comparison of the November 1997 and July 2015 El Niños in the Pacific Ocean west of Peru. Areas of warm water, shown in red, in 1997 contributed to relentless, damaging storms in California that winter. Note: This image has been edited to add a key and to express degrees in Fahrenheit. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Environmental Visualization Laboratory)

By Rong-Gong Lin II
August 12, 2015

For months, scientists have been saying that the El Niño weather pattern this winter could finally put a dent in California’s four-year drought.

Given the stakes, there is likely going to be much focus Thursday when the latest El Niño forecast is released.

The forecast is scheduled to be announced publicly at 6 a.m. PDT by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. Officials are to hold a conference call at 9 a.m. to discuss it.

Experts have said the evidence is growing stronger for a huge El Niño that would dump heavy — perhaps historic — rain in Southern California and maybe into Northern California as well.

Here is a primer on El Niño:

There’s a favorable chance that this winter will be wetter than average in much of California — from San Diego to San Francisco.

But there’s only an equal chance of a wetter-than-average rainy season north of San Francisco, where much of the state’s water supply is collected and stored in giant reservoirs. California needs rain and snow up there. Snow slowly melting from the mountains is essential to recharging our reservoirs when the weather turns dry later in the spring.

To read expanded article, click here.