Amarillo, TX - Experts are saying this "El Niño" could be one of the strongest in history.
For many drought-weary Texans, all the rain we've received has been a godsend. However, what some are calling the "Godzilla" El niño may bring more than we've bargained for.
El Niño is the term for a massive patch of warm water that appears in the equatorial pacific every few years...usually affecting weather patterns across the world. Climatologists suspected this El Niño was coming...but now they're predicting it will be even bigger than they thought.
"The threshold for el nino is only half a degree Celsius, so at this point, this is one of the strongest El Ninos on record for this time of year and just about every model I've seen projects that it's going to even intensify some more as we go into the winter season and it'll probably last at least up until spring," says Climatologist John Neilson-Gammon.
"What sets this El nino apart from any of the previous ones is the sheer sizing and strength of it. A lot of El Ninos, it's just a moderate warming of the waters out in the pacific. This one is getting really warm and it's covering a lot bigger area in the pacific so it has the ability to create stronger storm systems and effect a lot bigger part of the country," says Meteorologist Alan Gwyn.
In 1997, a massive El Niño brought floods, mudslides and hurricanes. For an area that was facing water shortages, the idea of getting a year's-worth of precipitation in one winter sounds appealing...however as we've seen here in the panhandle, too much moisture is not always a good thing.
"Also along with the increased rainfall and potentially snow comes cooler temperatures, so the odds definitely favor cool and wet winter in the panhandle," says Neilson-Gammon.
"Usually when we get a pretty strong el nino that's going to be coming in and lasting through the winter, that usually means a pretty wet winter for us. We have below normal temperatures 'cause of extra cloud cover, but we also have a lot more moisture in place and storms systems coming in from the south, so the potential is for maybe some big snows in the forecasts," says Gwyn.