Chances of El Nino weather event up 70% as Pacific Ocean warms

The chances of an El Nino weather phenomenon has risen to 70 percent – three times the normal likelihood — due to a recent warming of the Pacific Ocean, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said.

The Bureau’s manager of long-range forecasting Dr Andrew Watkins said in a statement that changes had been observed in the Pacific Ocean meaning the likelihood of an El Niño event has risen over the past month.

“In recent weeks, we’ve seen a warming in sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean to near El Niño thresholds, and a number of international models, including our own, are suggesting the warming will continue as we move closer to winter,” Dr Watkins said.

“These changes in the ocean are often a precursor to an El Niño. We’re now also seeing some signs of the atmosphere responding to this warming of the Pacific Ocean temperatures, and if this persists, weather patterns around the globe may also change.”

An El Niño weather phenomenon can trigger both floods and drought in different parts of the world, and is associated with warmer, dry weather across the Asia Pacific.

Dr Watkins said El Niño events typically mean a drier than average winter and spring for eastern Australia, and warmer than average conditions in the south.

It’s important to remember that the strength of an El Niño doesn’t always reflect the severity of the impacts, he said, adding that very strong El Niño events have brought mild impacts in the past while weak events , have triggered much more severe impacts.

“We’ll be monitoring conditions in the Pacific Ocean very closely and will provide the Australian community with the very latest information should we see further developments.”

The very latest ENSO Outlook and information on the impacts of an El Niño can be found at: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

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