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The Impending El Niño Is 'Too Big To Fail'

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El Niño is on the way, and it sounds like it's going to be a big one—"too big to fail," according to one climatologist. According to Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, the upcoming 'Godzilla' El Niño is going to be a rough ride. He told the Times that there's no chance El Niño is going to pass us by. "It's too big to fail," he said. "And the winter over North America is definitely not going to be normal."

Scientists cite the warming temperatures at sea level in the Pacific Ocean west of Peru as one cause, plus the winds along the equator have changed directions, meaning warmer waters are headed towards North and South America.

Patzert said that by looking at satellite images of the Pacific, you can see the height of seawater, which indicates how warm it is. He warns that this looks bigger than it was at the same time in 1997, and that even if the waters cool off, El Niño will still be in effect.

What this means for us, most likely, is a lot of rain. In SoCal, we have a 60 percent chance of getting an abnormally rainy winter and only a 7 percent chance of a dry winter. Meanwhile, San Francisco has a 40 percent chance of a rainy winter, which could mean flooding and mudslides. And that's not all: El Niño also might cause an increase in snake bites, and crabs.

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According to Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, this El Niño probably won't be as wild as 1997's, but noted that you never get a guarantee when predicting climates.

SoCal bore the brunt of El Niño in December of 1997 in Orange County, followed by L.A. in January of 1998. A total of 17 people were killed as a result of heavy rains, including two CHP officers whose car fell into a huge sinkhole in San Luis Obispo.

If you're in the 'we need the water' camp, Patzert said that even if El Niño soaks us, it won't end the drought, and that El Niño can be followed by La Niña, "the diva of drought."

"Conservation is going to be our new lifestyle," he said. "Our new normal."

Related: Video: This Year's El Niño Looks Like 1997's Monster El Niño