El Nino, the weather event bringing hot and dry conditions to the east coast of Australia, is likely to hit from July, increasing the chances of drought taking hold.
Billions of dollars in crops are at risk across the Pacific. In Australia, Rabobank analysts say there will be a fall in the sugar crop and the hot and dry conditions and a later rainy season may also impact grain crops.
The Christmas-New Year period in Australia could also see more record temperatures and subsequent bushfires with loss of property and crops.
Andrew Watkins, Manager of Climate Prediction Services at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, says there’s at least a 70% chance of an EL Nino.
“It’s not a dead certainty,” he told Business Insider Australia. “The normal odds for an El Nino in any given year is 20% to 25%. So everyone is agreeing that we’ve doubled or tripled the normal odds.”
The World Meteorological Organisation, the United Nations weather and climate arm, has a similar forecast and the US Climate Prediction Centre says there’s a 65% chance.
Here are the main impacts:
- Decreased rainfall over winter and spring across large parts of southern and inland eastern Australia.
- Increased risk of drought. 17 of the 26 El Niño events since 1900 have seen major droughts form over significant parts of Australia.
- Above normal daytime temperatures over southern Australia, particular from late winter into early summer, largely the result of reduced cloudiness.
- Reduced tropical cyclone numbers, with fewer coastal crossings.
- Increased fire danger, particularly in association with a positive Indian Ocean Dipole event which is bringing warmer waters to Western Australia
- Longer frost risk season in southern Australia because clearer skies mean less cloud trapping the heat in overnight.
- The northern wet season and monsoon typically arrive later than normal, with Northern Australia tending to have lower than usual rainfall in the months of September through January.
- It can have an impact on the snow season. It’s warmer and less rainfall as well. It’s not guaranteed because one good dump of snow can keep the season going. However, Australian Alps winter snow depth tends to be less on long term records.
The Bureau of Meteorology latest bulletin says all climate models now indicate El Niño is likely to occur in 2014.
Six of the seven models suggest El Niño thresholds may be exceeded as early as July.
The bureau says:
The Pacific Ocean has been warming along the equator over recent weeks, with continued warming in the central Pacific likely in coming months. Another burst of westerly winds is presently occurring in the western Pacific, and is likely to cause further warming of the sub-surface.