WASHINGTON, July 11 (UPI) -- New ocean temperature readings suggest this year's occurrence of El Niño may be the strongest since 1997, when it caused massive flooding in northern California.
The drought-stricken state may benefit from the unexpectedly strong and warm jet stream, but some suggest rainfall will either not be enough, or too much.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week predicted a collection of oceanic features will result in "an ongoing and strengthening El Niño." According to the report, there is more than a 90 percent chance it will continue through the Northern Hemisphere through the winter, and an 80 percent chance it will remain until early spring 2016.
Earlier this year, forecasts suggested the event was weaker than normal. At the time, the NOAA said that although El Niño was weak then, "certain impacts often associated with El Niño may appear in some locations during the Northern Hemisphere in spring 2015."
Now, the impacts may be more significant than anticipated.
This year's El Niño is looking increasingly similar to its 1997 predecessor. Then, it caused severe damage from flash flooding and mudslides in California during the winter of 1998.
AccuWeather suggests a strongly positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, could be the single factor to keeps the state from experiencing a repeat.
"While rains in California this winter probably turn out at least normal, the strong PDO may have an influence on the overall pattern and prevent the highly anomalous rains that would typically occur in a super El Niño, such as 1997-98," the outlet's meteorologist Ben Noll said.
Still, another AccuWeather meteorologist, Bernie Rayno, says this year's phenomenon won't be the one to heal California's drought problem.
"Current rain deficits are way too large," he said. "Even if California receives the rain that fell in 1997-98, it will not come close to ending the long-term drought."
El Niño is a phenomenon known to happen every two or three years, whereby warmer ocean water in the western and central equatorial Pacific dips deeper than usual, preventing upwelling of cold water and enabling surface water to warm faster and more intensely.