IN bad news for drought-struck eastern Australian farmers, the likelihood of an El Niño event developing in 2015 has risen to at least 70 per cent, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s update on the status of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) this week.
El Niño is often associated with below-average winter and spring rainfall over eastern Australia and above-average daytime temperatures over the southern half of Australia.
But mitigating the potential impacts, the Bureau also forecasts April to June is likely to be wetter than average across much of Australia due to very warm conditions in the Indian Ocean. Visit FarmOnline Weather for more updates and information
Ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific continue to be warmer than average, trade winds remain weaker than normal, and all models surveyed suggest further ocean warming will occur. As a result, the Bureau’s ENSO Tracker has been raised from El Niño 'watch' to 'alert'.
Tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures are now just shy of El Niño levels. Large areas of warmer than average water below the surface are likely to keep these waters warm for some time. This increases the odds of atmospheric factors coming into play, and hence further warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean. ENSO Wrap-Up: Current state of the Pacific and Indian Oceans
All international climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate that El Niño thresholds will be reached or exceeded by June. However, the accuracy of model outlooks during the ENSO transition period is lower than for outlooks made at other times of the year, the Bureau noted.
Climate scientists say the arrival of an El Niño event would build on the background warming from climate change, making it likely that 2015 and even 2016 would challenge existing global temperature records.
Sea temperatures around Australia are posting "amazing" records that climate specialists say signal global records set in 2014 may be broken this year and next.
March sea-surface temperatures in the Coral Sea region off Queensland broke the previous high by 0.12 degrees – a big jump for oceans that are typically more thermally stable than land.
Temperatures for the entire Australian ocean region also set new highs for the month, the Bureau of Meteorology said.