Chances of warm water phenomenon El Nino, which results in droughts in Asia and floods in the Americas, developing over the next couple of months have increased to over 90 per cent, the US Climate Prediction Centre (CPC) has said.

“A transition from (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) ENSO-neutral is expected in the next couple of months, with a greater than 90 per cent chance of El Nino persisting into the Northern Hemisphere winter,” CPC said in its El Nino watch update today.  

Its predictions come on the heels of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) saying that from July, six of the seven models indicate El Niño thresholds for sea surface temperatures will be met or exceed. It said all models point to the event developing by August. 

“The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral. All five models suggest that a positive IOD event may develop by June,” BOM said. 

At least weak El Nino likely

CPC said a potentially significant El Nino is on the horizon with at least a weak one likely. “...the range of possibilities at the end of the year (November-January) include a 80 per cent chance of at least a moderate El Nino to a 55 per cent chance of a strong El Nino,” it said.  

However, the CPC cautioned that “it is still possible the tropical atmosphere does not couple with the ocean, and El Niño fails to materialise (5-10 per cent chance)”.  

BOM said the Pacific Ocean is currently ENSO- neutral (neither La Niña nor El Niño), with anomalous warmth in both the east and west of the basin. 

It said oceanic ENSO indicators have continued to warm and are forecast to reach El Niño thresholds during winter, there has been little to no shift towards El Niño in atmospheric ENSO indicators. 

BOM retains ‘watch’

In view of this, the Australian weather agency retained its “El Nino watch”, which means there is a 50 per cent chance of the event developing in 2023.  

Last week, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said after experiencing three consecutive years of La Niña that brought bumper crops for some and crop failures for others, “we are likely heading right into an El Niño.”  It, however, said it was uncertain over the impact of El Nino as “no two events are the same”.

The South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF), a body backed by FAO’s weather arm World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said the south-west monsoon, key for the Indian subcontinent’s agriculture, could witness normal to below normal rainfall over most parts of South Asia.  

The WMO said chances of El Nino developing this year are increasing.