NOAA ocean measurements for July 1 show El Nino pattern off South America.

An El Niño ocean-warming cycle is strengthening in the Pacific and could produce a wet winter for drought-stricken Southern California.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Adminisration updated it’s official forecast late last week, saying there is a greater than 90 percent chance that the pattern will continue through the winter.

“Nearly all models predict El Niño to continue into the Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, with many multi-model averages predicting a strong event,” NOAA said in the new forecast.

An El Niño is a warming of the Pacific’s normal surface temperature by an average of over half a degree centigrade. It is associated with significantly wetter winters in the southwest United States, including central and southern California. As of July 1, ocean temperatures are more than a full degree above normal.

El Niño is the warm phase of a periodic warming and cooling of the Pacific off South America. This cycle is officially called the El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. The term El Niño, which is Spanish for the Christ child, arose because fisherman first noticed the warm ocean water around Christmastime.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.