What is an El Nino? Meteorologist Mike Nicco explains

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
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Meteorologist Mike Nicco explains what an El Nino is.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An El Nino has often been described as a temporary change in the climate of the Pacific Ocean, specially in the region around the equator.

A strong El Nino is often associated with wet winters. For drought-stricken California, that could mean much needed rain.

However, it can also trigger problems like flooding and heavy storm damage, which may overwhelm the state's infrastructure. Last week's Southern California severe thunderstorms and flash floods are an example.

Regardless, there still seems to be some confusion about what exactly an El Nino is.

Here are some facts:

- It is already happening

- It is not a weather phenomenon

- An El Nino is not a storm or weather system

- It does not create weather nor is it a guarantee of a wet winter

- It does not create ocean waves

- It is not associated with the abnormally warm ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska

- An El Nino was not associated with our abnormally warm ocean water last summer

- It is an abnormally warm body of ocean water near the equator

An El Nino can influence our weather patterns. That means a stronger El Nino has the potential to have a greater impact on our weather patterns by pushing these storms towards California and the southern United States.