Government scientists have downgraded predictions that an El Niño weather pattern will develop in the coming months to a 65 percent likelihood. Last month, ocean temperatures cooled at both the surface and below, leading scientists to reduce the prediction from the previous month's 80 percent probability.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration still said that it's more likely than not that one will still develop in late fall or early winter.
“Our models, which are generally pretty skillful, still tell us that over the next three to six months that we should see El Niño develop,” said Mike Halpert, acting director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.
An El Niño is a phenomenon of continuing warmer-than-average ocean temperatures in the Pacific that can shift tropical weather around. Drought-weary Californians have been hoping a strong El Niño would end dry conditions.
No El Niño is ever a guarantee of more rain, but stronger ones do tend to bring more. Halpert said that if one does develop, at this point, it appears that it would be a weaker one.
Right now, water temperatures off of California’s coast are warmer than average. However, Halpert said that this region is not the area that determines an El Niño. The warmer water temperatures are also not enough to cause rainfall by themselves.
“You still are going to need something else – something to really drive the storminess through California,” Halpert said.