Why This El Niño May Be The Strongest Ever, And What That Means For You

The world is in the midst of an El Niño that will likely rival the strongest ever measured, according to NASA data just published.

The tropical weather event, which began earlier this year, is forecast to continue into the early months of 2016, bringing with it a deluge of rain to parts of the western United States while intensifying other, environmentally challenging impacts. The news is particularly good for California, now entering its fifth year of drought, but scientists warn increased rain may not completely bust the state’s water woes.

The news hinges on data that found sea surface temperatures throughout November were 2.35 degrees Celsius (36.23 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. This warmer weather is directly connected with El Niño — and is nearly identical to trends seen during the previous two largest events, in 1982/3 and 1997/8.

Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said it’s highly likely El Niño will kick into gear early next year, as it did during the past events. He called the strengthening weather pattern a potential “Godzilla” event earlier this year and said it’s now nearly guaranteed the world will see some severe impacts, unless the “physics of the universe have changed.”

“This is as strong as the two previous strongest ever,” he said. “Calling it the strongest ever, close to the strongest ever, about the same — you’re just splitting words. The thing of it is, it’s had a huge impact all across the planet over the past six months.”

The weather event has already caused some serious changes around the world. A global coral bleaching event is expected to get worse throughout 2016, particularly in the Caribbean and Hawaii, spurred by warmer oceans. And drought linked to the phenomenon has sparked forest fires —> Read More