Every year, a warming Pacific Ocean trend known as El Niño threatens weather anarchy across much of the planet: torrents of rain and mudslides in Southern California, snow in Guadalajara.
Most of the time, people just whip out their extreme weather gear. But this upcoming El Niño, dubbed "Godzilla" by someone who would know, is threatening to be the biggest the world has seen in nearly 20 years.
This year, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab scientist Bill Patzert created the term "Godzilla El Niño" to describe the weirdly large weather pattern currently forming in the eastern Equatorial Pacific--a patch of warm water so huge that it's already causing phenomena of biblical proportion.
The arrival of a huge blob of warm water right off of our left coast is bringing its own adorably deadly ecosystem with it, including great white and hammerhead sharks in greater numbers.
"Big predators are coming back, and that includes seals, sea lions, sharks and all the things we never had to share the waves with," Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor at Cal State Long Beach, recently told the Los Angeles Times.
Along with mudslides and floods, big El Niños are known for felling trees during storms. Lots and lots of trees.
California cities this year have been ordered to cut water use by 25 percent, a directive that could distress the state's trees and cause even more of them to collapse during a heavy El Niño rainy season.
There is one factor that might keep El Niño from reaching Godzilla status this winter: trade winds. Those winds usually keep warming water and air in the Pacific from moving east. When those trade winds collapse, the yearly El Niño forms.
There's always a chance that this year's trade winds could decide to stick around. But if they decide to collapse, a Godzilla El Niño is more likely.
"There's what I call the El Niño drought-busting myth," Patzert says. "Only 7 percent of California's yearly rainfall is delivered by El Niño. El Niño does deliver rain, but also floods, mudslides, mayhem. Be careful what you wish for."
Let's just say that our trade winds don't collapse completely. Maybe they only collapse a little.
Even if the Godzilla El Niño turns out to be closer to Godzuki, the weather could still be miserable. The 2007 El Niño season saw record heat in California, but no rain to go with it, causing weird phenomena like these odd colors in a Southern California reservoir.
Like any good monster, the Godzilla El Niño also has an arch-nemesis, another weather system that could threaten its strength and glory. Patzert and others call it "The Blob," a separate patch of warm water parked farther north, off of the US West Coast.
That patch of water is associated with a very strong ridge of atmospheric high pressure (dubbed the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge by scientists) that can push storms farther north and east. In other words, the Blob and its sidekick, the RRR, are poised to possibly counteract many of Godzilla El Niño's evil plans for North America.