The World Meteorological Organization on Tuesday said there is a 75% to 80% chance of an El Niño developing by February 2019. The El Niño is a weather phenomenon originating in the Pacific Ocean that affects rainfall patterns, and has led to droughts and floods in the past.
The organisation said the odds of the phenomenon being a strong event is currently low. “The forecast El Niño is not expected to be as powerful as the event in 2015-2016, which was linked with droughts, flooding and coral bleaching in different parts of the world,” said Maxx Dilley, director of the UN body’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation branch.
The predicted phenomenon, however, can still impact rainfall and temperature patterns across the globe and have major consequences for the agricultural and food security sectors, the official said. Water resources and public health are also vulnerable to the weather condition.
The organisation believes that El Niño, in combination with climate change, could increase temperatures around the globe next year. In the event of a strong El Niño, sea surface temperatures in the east-central tropical Pacific can rise to at least 1.5 degrees Celsius above average.
The update is based on forecast models and expert interpretations from around the globe. “Model predictions of the strength of the El Niño range from just a warm-neutral condition through to a moderate strength El Niño event, with sea surface temperatures peaking at approximately 0.8 to 1.2 degrees Celsius above average,” the statement said.