Paul Rogers, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Drought-weary California, heading into a long, hot summer of water shortages and extreme fire risk, received some potentially good news Thursday: Federal scientists announced there is now a 4-in-5 chance of El Niño conditions developing by the end of the year.
El Niño events — when warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean at the equator affect the jet stream — can lead to wetter winters in California.
Citing a huge mass of warm water that continues to move east toward South America, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration increased its probability for El Niño developing next winter to 78 percent, up from 66 percent last month, and 36 percent in November.
"We are now even more bullish that an El Niño is impending," said Michelle L’Heureux, a meteorologist with the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md.