El Nino caused a drought in Nicaragua in 2010
This year’s El Nino weather pattern could be the strongest in decades, a climate scientist has suggested, which could bring floods and droughts to parts of the globe.
El Nino, which affects wind patterns, refers to the warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.
Dr Wenju Cai, a climate expert at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said rises in ocean temperature above those of recent years and the fast movement of water eastwards pointed to a “big event”.
He said: “I think this event has lots of characteristics with a strong El Nino.
“A strong El Nino appears early and we have seen this event over the last couple of months, which is unusual.
“The wind that has caused the warming is quite large and there is what we call the pre-conditioned effects, where you must have a lot of heat already in the system to have a big El Nino event.”
Dr Cai said he based his thinking on data released by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A villager carries a television found in the rubble after flooding in China
Sky News Weather Producer Chris England said the effects of the phenomenon are mostly felt over the Pacific, southern hemisphere and equatorial regions.
“It brings, for example, reduced rainfall (hence risk of droughts and bush/wildfires) to eastern Australia, southeast Asia, southern Africa, India, and the northwest of the United States (it’s warmer there as well), while increasing rainfall to northern Mexico, northern Peru, Ecuador and the southern US, bringing risk of flooding.
“For Europe, the impact is much less noticeable, and although there is a tendency for a warm, wet winter in the south and a cold, dry one in the north, that’s an average with no real predictive power, as the weather here is influenced by a wide range of other factors.”
The United Nations World Meteorological Organisation said last month the majority of forecasting models indicate El Nino may develop around the middle of the year.
However, it is too early to assess its strength, which forecasters say should become clear within the next month or two.
According to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, the chance of an El Nino developing this year is more than 70%.
The bureau will release its next outlook on El Nino next week, with Japan’s meteorological agency expected to update its forecast within the next couple of weeks.