The years 1997–98 brought El Niño out of the scientific literature and onto the front pages and evening newscasts. It was one of the strongest El Niño events observed, with extreme weather impacts on several continents. North America had one of its warmest and wettest winters on record, particularly in California and Florida. Peru, Mexico, and the rest of Central and South America endured devastating rainstorms and flooding. Indonesia and parts of Asia saw disastrous droughts.
Scientists at the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service (NWS) announced on May 8 that they foresee a 65 percent chance of a transition to El Niño in the summer of 2014. “There remains uncertainty as to exactly when El Niño will develop and an even greater uncertainty as to how strong it may become,” NWS reported.
“If El Niño returns, the American West and Southwest could see major relief next winter from the long-lasting, punishing drought,” said climatologist Bill Patzert, who has been studying El Niño via satellite for two decades from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Further, the very frigid winter in the upper tier of the U.S this past winter could do a flip to mild next winter.”