El Niño is nearing historic strength. What this means and when it will end.

Ocean temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific are now approximately 3 degrees Celsius above average.

This makes it one of the three strongest El Niño events on record and possibly the strongest since 1997-1998.

The persistent warming is fueling extreme weather around the world, like drought in Australia and flooding in California.

Forecast models indicate El Niño will peak in intensity during the December-February period.

The event is predicted to gradually weaken through spring and early summer of 2016 before transitioning to neutral conditions.

Most forecasters expect El Niño impacts like heavy rains in Southern California to continue through March-May timeframe.

The timing and strength of La Niña or return to neutral conditions post-El Niño remains uncertain.

Global climate influences are difficult to predict more than 6 months in advance, so continued close monitoring of ocean and atmosphere patterns will be important.

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