The U.S. Climate Prediction Center has upped the chances of an El Nino that lasts all summer to 70% and odds of it continuing into fall and winter to 60%.
For drought devastated California and the increasingly dry southern Plains, this could be good news. An El Nino tends to bring about a change in the winds that guide the jet stream, bringing landfall of the storm track southward over southern California.
But there's a caveat. This El Nino, which was officially declared to exist only a couple of months ago, appears to be a very weak one which offers far less certainty of its ability to do much jet stream steering.
One issue, according to the CPC, is that the climate models have difficulty forecasting the strength of an El Nino during the spring months in the Northern Hemisphere. The effects have traditionally be far more pronounced on Kansas during winter months of El Nino than during summer months.
The 90-day outlook from the CPC is not encouraging for the record drought in California in the short term. Nor is it great for Kansas and the rest of the southern Plains, where drought is becoming an ever-growing concern.
For Kansas there is an equal chance that temperatures and precipitation will be above normal or below normal.
For California, the precipitation chance is also equal for above or below. However, the whole state is in a clear above normal forecast for temperatures, which is certain to make drought conditions worse.
Over the last 30 days, the CPC shows that temperatures in Kansas have been well above normal and rainfall has been below normal. In the "equal chance" forecast, it is often the case that nothing changes much, which isn't good news for farmers with thirsty fields hoping that those looming clouds will actually bring rain and not high winds and hail.
And in the ever optimistic view of the farmer, there is a real chance that next year really will be better. An El Nino that strengthens as the year goes on and continues through the winter could be a drought breaker all the way from California to southern Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.