NASA releases photos showing strong El Nino for 2016

A satellite shows an image of the ocean warming because of El Nino on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, alongside a similar image taken in 1997. (NASA)

In 1997, El Nino claimed 17 lives and caused more than half a billion dollars in damage throughout California, and it's starting to look like the 2016 El Nino could bring similar devastation.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lap released a photo Tuesday, which showed the ocean warming based on data from its Jason-2 satellite. The patterns closely resemble images from December 1997.

"We do need to be cautious. It's not a guarantee that we'll receive a lot precipitation, but it definitely tilts the odds that we'll receive a wet winter," Mark Johnson said.

Jackson, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, said not all strong El Ninos are alike.

El Nino is already being felt in other parts of the country. The Midwest received a lot of rain, which caused deadly floods, and storms in the Sierra Nevada dumped several feet of snow this month.

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