Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has released modelling showing the latest El Nino cycle is over, but could now lead to La Nina development.
Rains have returned to many of the nations badly hit by the so-called “Godzilla” El Nino event, but replanting and food stocks remain tight. In Papua New Guinea, where hundreds of thousands have suffered under drought conditions since March 2015, water quality remains very poor, while it is predicted that severe food shortages will continue through the first half of 2016.
On the other side of the Pacific, piles of dead whales, salmon, sardines and clams blamed on the weather phenomenon clogged Chile’s beaches in recent months.
In the north, Palau saw depleted rivers and dams, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency. Flooding caused severe power outages for more than a week in some areas and international aid had to be requested.
Chilean authorities classed the El Nino as “one of the most intense in the past 65 years”.
Elise Chandler, a climate scientist at BoM, said the tropical Pacific Ocean has returned to neutral and more normal conditions can be expected for the next few months at least.
Forecaster Michael Knepp told the ABC that conditions were back to neutral and the bureau was now on La Nina watch, where rainfall in winter and spring is above average.
“That’s not a certain thing, just something to keep an eye on over the next few months,” he said.
Ms Chandler said while there was about a 40 per cent chance of a La Nina developing historically after an El Nino event, BoM’s climate models have this probability a little bit higher.
“There’s quite a lot of cool water below the surface in the Pacific, so we’re estimating there’s about a 50 per cent chance of a La Nina developing over the next few months,” she said.
La Nina signals higher than average rainfall, which could lead to extensive floods and also an increased hurricane activity across the Atlantic Ocean.
Experts are calling for an above-normal hurricane season this year with 14 named storms forecast for the Atlantic basin. Of those, eight are predicted to become hurricanes and four are predicted to become major hurricanes.
Due to a combination of factors, this season is expected to be more active than any season in the past three years. Experts warn that those living along the Atlantic coast should be on alert.