This winter's El Nino is not backing down

This year's El Nino is staying unusually strong, and forecasters say it's still expected to bring a wet winter to drought-stricken California.

In an update Thursday, Mike Halpert of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told reporters the odds favor some significant winter storms in California.

While that could offer some relief for the region's severe drought, it also raises the risk of damage from flooding or mudslides. Halpert said that during previous strong El Ninos, some southern areas including California and the Gulf Coast have had heavy rainfall and flooding. Storms blamed on the strong El Nino of 1997-98 killed at least 17 people.

El Nino is a warming in the Pacific Ocean that alters weather worldwide. Climatologists have been warning for months about the potential impact of what one scientist dubbed a "Godzilla El Nino" peaking this winter.

Halper also said it's not clear what a strong El Nino will mean for the lack of snow so far in the Northeast.

The outlook calls for a wet winter across the southern U.S., and up the East Coast to southern New England.