Is El Nino in decline?
Those who remember the El Nino events of 1982-83 and 1997-98 will recall the turbulent weather extremes that impacted the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. These conditions can be devastating in both commercial and residential situations, from severe water shortages to the destruction of crops, and they are often unpredictable events.
According to the American National Centers for Environmental Information, the 1997-98 El Nino was the second-warmest and seventh-wettest since 1895. The Australian Bureau of Metrology (BOM) believes that 2015 was at a comparable level to these big two, as the average national rainfall was below 5 per cent of the predicted average rainfall for the year at 443.7 millimetres – based on the 30-year average of 465.2 mm (1961-90).
El Nino weakens
The usual signs of a weakening El Nino are present, with gradually cooling below-ocean surface temperatures and only the top 50 metres of ocean registering warmer than 1 degrees Celsius reports the BOM. This is considered by the BOM to be the coolest top layer of ocean since January 2015. The Southern Oscillation Index, an atmospheric indicator, has returned to lesser El Nino levels, although there is still cloudiness near the Date Line – a signal of El Nino – which persists.
Dry spells will continue
Looking to the future of weather conditions is never an exact science, but predictions and trends can help with preparations. International climate models suggest that in the southern autumn El Nino will decline, returning to predicted neutral levels by May this year. However, when tracking this pattern over recent decades, high-pressure systems in Australia have actually become more dominant, and rainfall has not increased as it normally does during this period. This could mean that reoccurring dry conditions may have more to do with long-term drying tends and less to do with El Nino.
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by David Francis'