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2015 Shaping Up To Be An El Niño Year03:25
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A map shows sea surface temperatures on May 21, 2015. El Niño is characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific and affects global temperatures and rainfall. (NOAA)
A map shows sea surface temperatures on May 21, 2015. El Niño is characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific and affects global temperatures and rainfall. (NOAA)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Forecasters first declared El Niño conditions in early March of this year, noting warm ocean temperatures across the tropical Pacific. The most recent forecast shows a weak to moderate El Niño, and that it's likely to persist for much of the year.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson talks to Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, about what this may mean for the weather.

Interview Highlights: Mike Halpert

On signs that El Niño is coming

"The signal for El Niño is typically not particularly strong in the spring and in the summer. Although part of that is because typically we don't see El Niño conditions at this time of year, so that's a little unusual in and of itself. There's potentially some link to El Niño with the rains in Texas and even some of the rains we saw in California a few weeks ago, but again it's not really a hallmark of an El Niño."

On whether El Niño will help bring California out of the drought

"I suspect even a really good next winter is still not going to wipe out this drought."

"Weak to moderate events have weaker impacts in California, oftentimes we do see some beneficial rains in the southern part of the state, but of course really the drought extends over much of the state. From what we've seen in the historical record, what we really need is the strong events to really tilt the odds towards wet up and down California. Over the past 60 years, we've seen roughly six strong events and in at least five of those we've seen well above normal rainfall and snowfall."

"Sometimes the rains can be too much in California, so then you're dealing with all kinds of flooding and landslides. Given the four-year drought that's ongoing right now, I think maybe they would suffer through some flooding to have some beneficial rains. One thing to add though is that the drought is so entrenched now in California that I suspect even a really good next winter is still not going to wipe out this drought."

Guest

This segment aired on May 22, 2015.

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