Possibility of El Niño by winter ‘nearing 50 per cent’

The possibility of an El Niño weather pattern emerging in the winter of 2018-19 has increased, according to official forecasts from US meteorologists.

The chances of El Niño were “nearing 50 per cent by northern hemisphere winter 2018-19” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday in its monthly update.

El Niño refers to a warming of Pacific sea surface temperatures that occurs naturally every few years and can trigger droughts in some parts of the world and floods in others, depending on its strength. The weather phenomenon is linked to droughts in south-east Asia as well as warm sea temperatures in South America, affecting prices of raw materials such as metals, wheat, rice, coffee, sugar and cotton.

The 2015-16 El Niño was the strongest on record, with the weather phenomenon contributing to bleaching of coral in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia to severe droughts in South Africa.

NOAA’s comments came as the impact of an La Niña phenomenon had receded and the Pacific sea surface temperatures have returned to neutral levels.

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