(CBS SF) -- Federal meteorologists are warning California and other parts of the U.S. could be hit by the strongest El Nino of the past 65 years later this year.
Forecasters are warning California could be hit by the strongest El Nino season on record later this year.
As El Nino continues picking up steam, scientists with the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center told reporters Thursday there is a 90 percent chance El Nino will makes its way to the Northern Hemisphere by late fall or early winter and about an 85 percent chance it will last until the spring.
"The atmospheric response provides not just evidence that El Nino is strengthening, but confidence that it will continue to develop," forecasters wrote in a climate brief.
Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and other climate experts say warming sea surface temperatures coupled with westerly wind bursts are signals that El Nino right now is stronger than it was in 1997-98, which were among the state's wettest years on record.
"This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Nino," Patzert was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. "If this lines up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem."
El Nino affects the strength and position of the jet stream, tilting the odds for more rain than average along the West coast and in the Southeast during the winter.
A strong El Nino will also likely contribute to a below average Atlantic hurricane season and powerful hurricane seasons in both in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
But a strong El Nino likely won't be a complete drought-buster for California.
Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said El Niño could soak Los Angeles and miss Northern California altogether.
"Don't count on El Nino," said Marcus. "If we get an El Niño, worry about flooding and property damage, loss of life and all that."
Marcus worries Northern Californians will back off their record-setting conservation because they keep hearing El Nino is coming to the rescue.
"We'll take the water if it comes," said Marcus. "I just don't want folks to think they don't have to conserve because El Nino will save us, or to not understand that a strong El Nino has a downside."
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