El Niño, a weather pattern which can trigger floods and drought in different parts of the world, is likely to occur as early as this July, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned.
The latest organisation to predict El Niño, BOM said there was a 70 per cent chance of the weather pattern emerging after analysing data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
El Niño is a warming of sub-surface sea temperatures along the equator in the central and eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean, which alters wind patterns and can lead to both floods and drought in a number of areas, including Australia, Indonesia and South America.
Dr Wenju Cai, a climate expert at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said: “A strong El Niño appears early and we have seen this event over the last couple of months, which is unusual; the wind that has caused the warming is quite large and there is what we call the preconditioned effects, where you must have a lot of heat already in the system to have a big El Niño event.”
Strong El Niño events have historically occurred around every 20 years, although some experts believe this could be cut to just 10 years due to global warming.
The effects of El Niño can negatively impact the environment, significantly reducing crop yields, as well as the human population.
In 1997 and 1998, the worst El Niño on record caused huge flooding along the Yangtze River in China, killing over 1,500 people.