THERE is still a 50 per cent chance that El Nino will occur later this year, according to the latest outlook issued by the Bureau of Meteorology this week.
The Pacific Ocean is currently in a neutral phase, meaning neither El Nino or La Nina are occurring. However, both sea surface temperatures and atmospheric indicators across the equatorial Pacific Ocean are leaning towards El Nino thresholds and this trend is expected to continue in the months ahead.
At present, seven of the eight international computer models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology predict that warming will continue in the equatorial Pacific Ocean during spring.
There in fairly good consensus between these models that El Nino thresholds could be exceeded by late spring or early summer, prompting the Bureau to maintain an El Nino Watch for Australia.
El Nino typically means drier than usual weather for large parts of northern and eastern Australia during winter and spring, although its correlation with rainfall tends to deteriorate in summer.
It’s worth noting that should an El Nino develop, it will be forming later than usual and there are indications that it could also be a weak event.
El Nino and La Nina are not guarantees of more of less rainfall, although they do tend to lean the odds towards drier and wetter conditions, respectively.
The prospect of drier and warmer than usual weather in the months ahead, combined with below average rainfall so far this year, are likely to heighten the threat of bushfires this season in NSW.
According to Australia’s Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, there is an above normal fire potential this season for forested areas on and east of the Great Dividing Range in NSW.