CYCLONE Pam not only caused havoc through the island nation of Vanuatu last week, it may also have lasting implications for Australian farmers this season according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
In its latest El Nino tracking report, the Bureau said Cyclone Pam, combined with tropical storm Bavi, which mainly hit the Philippines, have created a freak weather event that could raise the possibility of an El Nino.
The two storms combined to produce one of the strongest reversals in the trade winds in recent years. Visit FarmOnline Weather for more updates and information
This change is expected to increase the already warm sub-surface temperatures currently observed in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which may in turn raise tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures in the coming months, which is consistent with an El Nino.
The Bureau outlook came after US agricultural meteorologist Kyle Tapley, MDA Information Services, told the recent Global Grains event in Singapore his company’s forecasts were for a drier than average autumn and winter for much of Australia’s cropping belt.
In particular, eastern Australia is likely to suffer a dry autumn, while Western Australia, which is heavily dependent on winter rainfall, is predicted to have a drier than average winter.
“Dryness could be a concern for the Australian crop, in particular for eastern areas,” Mr Tapley said.
His company’s assessment of the current situation in regards to an El Nino was similar to the Bureau's forecast.
“There are above normal sea surface temperatures, consistent with a weak El Nino, but that warming trend has failed to get above the thresholds of anything but a weak El Nino event.”
The Bureau also said there was plenty of time for trade winds to change before the Australian growing season kicks off, saying recent events did not yet constitute a sustained trend.
It said many international models favoured an El Nino event developing, but added there was a low degree of accuracy at this time of year.