Australia issues alert: El Niño will come strong and early this year


The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a weather system that comes from the unusual warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean occurring erratically in the span of 3 to 6-year intervals. Droughts particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and excessive rainfall in South America could occur, curtailing food supplies of affected nations.

Last April 15, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed in a press release that there has been a spike in the temperatures of the sub-surface waters in the tropical Pacific, signaling an impending El Niño event, and will remain warm in the coming months.

"El Niño and La Niña are major drivers of the natural variability of our climate. If an El Niño event develops, it will influence temperatures and precipitation and contribute to droughts or heavy rainfall in different regions of the world," said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of WMO.

A climate expert from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization agreed and said the El Niño coming this July is one of the strongest in the past decades.

"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," said Wenju Cai, M.D., while basing his conclusions from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Though the WMO made it clear that it is still too early to be certain, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has earlier declared that chances of El Niño this year rose up to 70 percent. The meteorological agency of Japan, meanwhile, is yet to release its updated forecast in the coming weeks.

The worst ever recorded El Niño happened in the middle of 1997 and 1998 and it was greatly felt by every continent in the world. Almost $45 billion worth of damage has been incurred worldwide.

Increased incidence of mosquito-transmitted disease occurred in parts of Australia, India, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, while immense flooding in China's Yangtze River wiped out over 1,500 people.

Prior to this event, Australia has suffered from extreme drought in 1982 and 1983 now known as the Ash Wednesday Bushfire in southeast Australia that resulted in 75 casualties.

El Niño, which means "baby boy" or "Christ Child," got its name from the Spanish-speaking fishermen in Chile and Peru when they observed that the weather change occurs during Christmas time.

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