El Nino weather phenomenon will strike this year, Met Office warns


Environment Editor


The world is almost certain to be struck by the “El Nino” phenomenon this year, with the potential to induce “major climactic impacts” around the world, the Met Office has warned.

India and Australia are likely to be hit the hardest but the fallout could also be felt in Britain, where the last El Nino event in 2009/10 contributed to the heavy snowfall in the UK that winter.

The term El Nino relates to feedback between the atmosphere and ocean that occurs every two to seven years and can wreak havoc on the weather system, inflicting droughts and excessive rainfall across the world.

“El Nino is associated with colder than average winters, but is only one of the players that determine the weather,” a Met Office spokesman said.

This means that while the phenomenon increases the chance of a cold winter, and was found to have contributed to the freezing conditions across Northern Europe last time it struck, it was by no means certain that the UK would become blanketed in snow.

In a report that concludes the event is “probable”, the Met Office predicts that the worst effects of the El Nino will be felt in India, during the forthcoming three-month Monsoon season.

“The risk of a poor monsoon is two to three times greater this year than normal. So far the progress of the Indian monsoon rains bears this out, with a late and weak start to the season with less than 50 per cent of normal rainfall in June over much of India,” a Met Office spokesman said.

The prospect of a weak monsoon season has raised fears of low crop production and rising food prices.

The Met Office statement followed hard on the heels of a United Nations warning of an 80 per cent chance that an El Nino event could begin as soon as October and a 60 per cent chance it would kick off by the end of August.

“El Nino leads to extreme events and has a pronounced warming effect,” said Michel Jarraud, head of the UN’s World Meteorological Society.

An El Nino event occurs when the prevailing trade winds that circulate over surface waters in the tropical pacific begin to weaken. This allows warm waters of the western pacific to wash back eastward, dragging precipitation with it, leaving countries like India, Indonesia and Australia drier, and increasing the chances of wildfires and lower crop production.

Meanwhile, the phenomenon precipitates heavier rainfall in the South American and eastern Pacific nations, raising the prospect of floods and landslides.

But El Nino does not spell bad news for everyone. For example, the event is expected to bring much needed rain to the American west, which has been subjected to a severe drought in recent months.

Homes in Pacifica, California, slide into the ocean during the 1997-98 El Nino event which caused extreme weather worldwide (Reuters) Homes in Pacifica, California, slide into the ocean during the 1997-98 El Nino event which caused extreme weather worldwide (Reuters)
The name El Nino is believed to have been coined in the 19th Century after Peruvian fishermen observed it around Christmas. The word is Spanish for boy, in reference to the infant Jesus Christ. La Nina, the word for girl, was devised later to label the reverse phenomenon, which is characterised by unusually cool ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific, the last of which ended in April 2012.

“We remain vulnerable to this force of nature but we can protect ourselves by being better prepared,” said Ms Jarraud. “Our understanding of El Nino and La Nina has increased dramatically in recent years and this knowledge has enabled us to develop very successful climate services for society.

"Advance warning has given governments around the world time to make contingency plans for the impact of this year’s expected El Nino on the agriculture, water management, health and other climate sensitive sectors,” he added.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas