El Nino upgraded to strong status, likely to continue through winter

LOS ANGELES -- Forecasters say there is a 95 percent chance that this year's El Nino will continue through the winter and gradually weaken into spring 2016.

The El Nino status was upgraded from moderate to strong, making it the third strongest on record so far. Scientists say water temperatures in the Pacific are up another two degrees.

While forecasters upgraded the El Nino to an unusual strong status, Mike Halpert, deputy director of the federal Climate Prediction Center, said the event doesn't match the monster El Nino of 1997-1998, nor is it likely to. That El Ninos season caused half a billion dollars in damage and left 17 people dead in California.

This map from NOAA shows the El Nino precipitation outlook for December 2015 to February 2016.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Experts say it would take more than one El Nino season to get California out of a drought.

And Mother Nature can fool us. There are three times when all the conditions pointed to a strong El Nino such as this one, but in the end, it didn't bring a lot of rain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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