LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — It may happen later than Californians want, but a major climate system known as El Niño could have a big impact on the state’s drought.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction has issued an El Niño watch – a 50 percent chance it will form this summer or fall.

The weather phenomenon is a warming of the central Pacific Ocean and is expected to lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for California and southern states.

The last major El Niño, in 1997-98, brought rainfall more than 200 percent above normal to Southern California. But it’s not for sure that this El Niño will do the same for California’s rain totals.

“Whether that would be a strong El Niño, or weak, that’s still to be determined. So you can’t really look ahead and say, ‘if it’s El Niño’ which it’s going to be in August, you know, we’re definitely getting rain,” National Weather Service Science and Operations Officer John Dumas said.

Dumas says El Niño could have an effect on the monsoonal flow that comes in from the south about that time of year, but it’s too soon to know for sure.

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