The Australian Bureau of Meteorology announced the formation of an El Nino phenomenon on Tuesday. Occurring on average every two to seven years, it lasts nine to twelve months. This natural climate phenomenon is associated with warming sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
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The formation of an El Nino weather phenomenon – typically rising temperatures and significant droughts leading to devastating bushfires – was announced by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday 19 September.
The announcement, which confirms the predictions of other weather organizations, comes as the country is in the grip of unseasonal heat.
Government forecaster Carl Braganza said El Niño has taken hold in the Pacific Ocean, coinciding with an unusual spring heat wave currently affecting eastern Australia.
He said the weather event would contribute to warming oceans, which have been experiencing high temperatures since April. “This (Australian) summer will be warmer than average and certainly warmer than the last three years,” he said.
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In July, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimated a 90% chance of an event in the second half of 2023.
“The arrival of El Niño will significantly increase the probability of breaking temperature records and trigger extreme warming in many parts of the world and in the oceans,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Talas.
An event that occurs every two to seven years
El Niño occurs on average every two to seven years, and episodes typically last nine to twelve months.
It is a natural climate phenomenon associated with sea surface warming in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. But the current episode “nevertheless comes in the context of a climate modified by human activities”, the WMO points out.
El Niño is generally associated with heavy rainfall in southern Latin America, South America, the Horn of Africa, and parts of Central Asia. It can cause severe drought in Australia, Indonesia, parts of South Asia and Central America.
According to the European Copernicus Observatory, the global average temperature for the three months of summer in the Northern Hemisphere (June-July-August) is the highest ever recorded, for which 2023 will be the hottest year on record.
“Exceptionally hot weather”
According to University of Melbourne climatologist Andrew King, El Nino increases fire and drought risk in parts of Australia. “The exceptionally warm weather we are currently seeing in south-east Australia will mean more extreme conditions in the coming months,” he said.
On Tuesday, particularly high temperatures were recorded along Australia’s east coast with hot winds, raising fears of bushfires similar to the 2019-2020 summer.
Since then, conditions have been unusually wet, which has helped trees grow faster, increasing the amount of fuel available.
In parts of New South Wales, temperatures reached 34 degrees Celsius, 10 degrees above the Australian spring average.
Children from 21 schools in the coastal region, about 500 kilometers south of Sydney, were sent home. “Severe fire danger is expected in the area this afternoon due to strong winds,” the NSW Rural Fire Service said in a statement.
Since records began in 1910, a spring heat wave in eastern Australia has followed the warmest winter on record.
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