El Nino’s grip on Aus climate to weaken

15-El Nino_s grip on Aus climate to weaken

Jamie Duncan
(Australian Associated Press)

Despite rain in recent days in parts of Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology says the drought-inducing El Nino has likely reached its peak strength.

And the Bureau of Meteorology says once the El Nino fades, better-than-average rain may follow.

The El Nino, a warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific that tends to bring drier weather to Australia, is one of the three strongest of the past 50 years.

Severe rain shortages, some extending back more than three years, have affected parts of South Australia, Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

In recent days, heavy rain has lashed parts of each of those states.

The BOM says that once a strong El Nino dissipates, above-average rainfall tends to affect parts of Australia in the first half of the year.

Based on 26 past El Ninos since 1900, there’s a 50 per cent chance the measure of El Nino conditions, the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index, will return to neutral by the second quarter of 2016.

But there’s a 40 per cent chance it may go straight into a wet La Nina year, the reverse of an El Nino, which tends to bring more rain and cyclones to Australia.

The last El Nino year, in 2010/11, delivered widespread flooding in Queensland, NSW and Victoria in September 2010, January 2011 and February 2011.

It produced Cyclone Yasi, the strongest cyclone to cross the Queensland coast in more than 90 years, which caused mass destruction between Cairns and Townsville in February 2011.

“Models also suggest neutral and La Nina are equally likely for the second half of 2016, with a repeat El Nino the least likely outcome,” the BOM said.

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