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Indications Of A Strong El Nino Kindle Hope For A Wet Year Ahead For California

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- It is certainly not a guarantee, but conditions are pointing more and more toward El Nino conditions next winter and spring.

In fact, many of the factors that led up to the strong El Nino winter of 1997-98 are happening again. Some signs are even stronger than back in 1997.

Meteorologists at NOAA on Friday increased their estimation of the probability of an El Nino winter in 2014-15 from 52% to 66%. That is a significant change.

Why does this matter? In strong El Nino winters, the San Francisco Bay Area has an increased chance of above-average rainfall -- something we sorely need right now. One of our wettest winters on record happened back in 1997-98.

Even the strongest El Nino winters haven't all given us above-average rain -- many have, but not all. It merely increases our chance.

Further, on average, weak-to-moderate El Nino winters have shown little or no increase in our winter rainfall. Most El Nino events fall into this category.

But after three straight dry winters -- and some of the lowest reservoir and snowpack readings in a generation -- the increased possibility of an El Nino winter later this year is welcome news. If conditions continue to move in the that direction, El Nino conditions may begin as soon as late summer or early autumn.

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