(NEXSTAR) – El Niño is likely to take over soon — and odds are it will be sticking around for a long time, national forecasters said in an update Thursday.

While the Northern Hemisphere is still under “ENSO-neutral” conditions — meaning we are neither in an El Niño nor La Niña — that could change at any time. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said there is about an 80% chance the transition to El Niño takes place between May and July.

Once it takes hold, El Niño is likely to strengthen into the fall and winter, when it normally peaks. The odds of it lasting until February of 2024 are upwards of 90%, the Climate Prediction Center said.

An El Niño winter would be a switch from what what we’ve seen the last three years, with back to back to back La Niña seasons.

El Niño typically brings cold, wet winter to the Southern U.S. A strong El Niño in particular is associated with lots of rain for the Southwest and California — though California already saw a cold, wet winter this year even without El Niño in control.

On the other hand, El Niño usually means a warm, dry winter for the Pacific Northwest, Ohio Valley, northern Rockies and parts of the Midwest. Hawaii also often sees below-average rain during an El Niño fall, winter and spring season.

While El Niño can strengthen hurricane season in the central and eastern Pacific, it tends to contribute to weaker hurricanes forming in the Atlantic basin.

Even a strong El Niño isn’t a guarantee those exact scenarios will play out, NOAA warns.

“‘Associated with’ doesn’t mean that all of these impacts happen during every El Niño episode. However, they happen more often during El Niño than you’d expect by chance, and many of them have occurred during many El Niño events,” the agency writes.

Whether we’re in a La Niña year, El Niño year, or neither is determined by sea surface temperatures near the equator over the Pacific Ocean. The temperature of the water and air above it can shift the position of the jet stream, which impacts the types of weather observed on land.

What does this all mean for Wisconsin?

Dr. Steve Vavrus with the Wisconsin State Climatology Office said it’s looking increasingly likely that an El Niño will emerge this year and last through the coming winter, although the forecasts will become firmer in the next couple of months. 

As for Wisconsin, Vavrus said El Niños tend to favor warmer-than-normal winters in the state, especially with the strong events, but there are lots of exceptions to this relationship. 

Data from Climate.gov shows U.S. winter temperature departures from average for all El Niño events since 1950, clustered by strength among strong, moderate, and weak El Niños. Vavrus said you can see that there is a tendency for Wisconsin to have mild winters during an El Niño, but even the strong events of 1957-58 and 1972-73 did not fit this expectation. Wisconsin has experienced plenty of mild winters during La Niña events and during winters with neither an El Niño nor a La Niña.

“I like to use the analogy of loaded dice, which tend to roll a certain number more often than expected by chance,” Vavrus said. “So if one rolls the dice many, many times, the tendency for a favored number to appear will emerge. However, even loaded dice will typically still roll other numbers, just like an El Niño will tend to result in a mild winter in Wisconsin, but with plenty of exceptions.”