Expected to peak in the late fall or early winter, the annual weather phenomenon may yield more frequent and intense storms than in past seasons, along with an increase in tropical cyclones in the Pacific and heavy rainfall and snowfall.
In July, UC Irvine hydrologist Amir Aghakouchaktold CBS Los Angeles that the predicted El Niño rains could result in excessive stress on levies, roads and hillsides that have started to dry and crack in California's historic drought.
"We cannot stop them, but we can try to be more and more prepared," Aghakouchak said. "Natural hill slopes are becoming more and more vulnerable."
But despite the predictions, NOAA scientists say even if the West Coast sees above normal rain and snow this winter, the amount of precipitation won't be enough to erase four years of record-breaking drought conditions for California.