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What Is El Nino and When Does it Start in 2015? California, Texas, New England Prepare

By Jonathan Lambert j.lambert@classicalite.com on Aug 16, 2015 10:50 AM EDT

After NOAA's Climate Prediction Center declared that this year's El Nino would be among the strongest in history, internet users quickly took to Google to ask some of their most pressing questions. In addition to searching for what El Nino means, users also searched for its 2015 start date, as well as what will likely occur in California, Texas and New England.

El Nino, which translates to "The Little Boy" (or "Christ Child," in Spanish), is one half of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation Cycle. The other half of the ENSO cycle is referred to as La Nina and is also known as the cold phase. Conversely, El Nino is the warm phrase.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tells readers that the term El Nino "refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific."

While US users were looking for a specific start date for the potentially devastating storms, NOAA could only provide a rough timeline:

"Typical El Niño effects are likely to develop over North America during the upcoming winter season. Those include warmer-than-average temperatures over western and central Canada, and over the western and northern United States. Wetter-than-average conditions are likely over portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast and Florida, while drier-than-average conditions can be expected in the Ohio Valley and the Pacific Northwest. The presence of El Niño can significantly influence weather patterns, ocean conditions, and marine fisheries..."

While the storm patterns are sure to affect the entire country, there are two states in particular that are looking for answers - Texas and California.

Both areas have been hard hit by droughts, especially California, and many are hoping that El Nino may actually help end their dry spell.

Unfortunately, there is still no guarantee that California will receive enough rainfall to move past their present water shortage, as Alex Sosnowski from AccuWeather.com tells readers:

"Even though a strong El Niño is in progress and likely to last for months, the prospect of drought-busting rainfall is not a guarantee for California this winter...how much rain and snow California as well as other areas along the West coast receive will be dependent on the interaction between El Niño and other conditions in the northern Pacific Ocean."

If the 1997 El Nino is any indication, however, California and Texas will likely receive significant flooding.

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TagsEl nino, California Drought, Texas