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El Niño Will Live Up To The Hype, Experts Say

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The El Niño-related rainfall that pummeled Southern California early this month was likely just a preview of more powerful storms to come.

While it may seem like we're in the clear now from the flooding and mudslides of early January, climate scientists predict that a cycle of even more punishing storms could begin towards the end of January and continue for months, reports the L.A. Times. "That was a trailer for the movie," explains NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert.

While Northern California has continued to see rain and snow, climate scientists explain that it is largely due to typical winter weather patterns, which mostly come from the northern Pacific Ocean. El Niño-influenced storms, however, come from the west, just above Hawaii, and can bring a persistent series of subtropical storms—or a "conveyor belt" of storms as Patzert prefers—which can continually douse the state. And while high pressure southwest of California has kept those storms at bay, according to Stanford climate scientist Daniel Swain, that could soon change. Computer models indicate that towards the end of January, more storms with consistent strength could return.

"This thing is getting ready to have a second peak," Patzert tells the Times. "I think El Niño will live up to its hype, but you have to be patient."

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And Patzert explains that it's not so much the strength of the storms that is the most concerning, but the constant conveyor belt of them, which can saturate the ground and lead to destructive mudslides and flooding.

We also may end up seeing some different outcomes from this year's El Niño storms than in the past. Nate Mantua with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tells KPCC, "It has a lot of the same characteristics as big El Niños of the past, but it also has some differences that may end up leading to different outcomes for what it does to weather in California and along the whole Pacific Coast."