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AUSTRALIA : Weather bureau says El Nino now a 70 per cent chance, dry conditions, heatwaves already occurring

ABC Rural By Catherine McAloon

Updated about an hour ago

Tue 18 Nov 2014, 4:27pm

The Bureau of Meteorology has upgraded its outlook for an El Nino, bringing dry conditions to eastern Australia in the next three months.

There's now a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino developing and it could last into late summer, or early autumn.

The bureau's ENSO tracker, which monitors El Nino and La Nina activity has moved from 'watch' to 'alert' status.

Dr Andrew Watkins, the weather bureau's manager of climate prediction services, says there has been further warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean in the past fortnight.

"We've gone up to basically around about El Nino thresholds, or even just over them," Dr Watkins said.

"What we are saying to people is, we are pretty close to El Nino conditions in some of the things we monitor, but not all, we're not actually there yet (and) we may not even reach there."

The models are suggesting we could stay persistently at El Nino level through December, through January, and some models right through the autumn.
Dr Andrew Watkins, weather bureau's manager of climate prediction services
Dr Watkins says despite an El Nino having not yet been declared, El Nino impacts of drier and warmer weather are already affecting large parts of the country.

"The issue is of course, once we get this close to El Nino thresholds we typically start to see some impacts across Australia and many people would say we've actually seen some of those impacts now for three months or so," Dr Watkins said.

"Declaring an El Nino is not like flicking a switch, just because the bureau says there is or isn't an El Nino doesn't mean of course that the impacts switch on or off.

"We've seen some impacts around Australia, the dry conditions through inland Australia, particularly eastern Australia and parts of the south, and those warm conditions and those heatwaves that have been pumping through, are not to be unexpected when you are at this sort of level.

He says if a declaration of an El Nino is made it could happen in the next one to three months.

"The models are suggesting we could stay persistently at El Nino level through December, through January, and some models right through the autumn."

Dr Watkins says it's unusual for an El Nino to develop so late in the year.

"In actual fact we don't think we've seen one develop this late in the year so far."

In 2012 an El Nino developed in October and in 1986 one developed in November.

"For one to develop late November, into December that would indeed be quite unusual."

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