Warming Pacific waters seen fuelling lengthy El Nino

Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies for the week centred on June 3. (CPC.ncep.noaa.gov)

Sydney | Reuters –– Pacific Ocean temperatures continue to warm, supporting El Nino weather conditions for the rest of 2015, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said Tuesday.

An El Nino can have devastating consequences for agriculture globally, causing heavy rains and floods in South America and scorching weather in Asia and as far away as east Africa.

“It is highly likely the El Nino event will continue through the year,” Andrew Watkins, the bureau’s manager of climate prediction services, told Reuters.

“It’s a little early to say how strong it will be but we are roughly at moderate levels already,” Watkins said.

For Australia, a major world supplier of wheat, sugar and other crops, an El Nino weather event often brings less rain over the country’s east, and temperatures higher than average in the south.

Most of Australia’s northern and eastern regions are already parched by drought.

In the past three months the Southern Oscillation Index measuring the intensity of an El Nino, which brings a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, has averaged 9.7, exceeding El Nino thresholds.

“The ocean temperatures are all more than 1 C above normal,” Watkins said. “It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen temperatures in the Pacific that warm.”

Reporting for Reuters by James Regan and Lincoln Feast.

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