El Niño Media Release


El Niño Odds Shorten

Signs of a possible El Niño event have strengthened over the past month, making the continued development of an El Niño during winter and spring clearly more likely than not. This advice is based on the latest analysis by the Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre and coincides with a general warning issued by the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia's leading authority on weather and climate monitoring and prediction, the key warning signs are:

  • The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) dropped significantly during May to –15;
  • The Trade Winds have become much weaker than average across the entire breadth of the Pacific Ocean;
  • A large part of the central tropical Pacific Ocean is about 1°C warmer than average and is continuing to warm.

Eastern, northern and parts of southern Australia therefore face an increased risk of below average rainfall during the remainder of the year, although each El Niño is different. Importantly, El Niño is NOT synonymous with drought as other influences can lessen its effect. Furthermore, talk of a weak or moderate event can be misleading as vastly different impacts can occur with events of similar strength.

Australian Impacts
History shows that the main impacts from El Niño events usually occur during winter and spring, that is from June to November. During this period eastern, northern and parts of southern Australia face an increased risk of below average rainfall and above average daytime temperatures. Droughts sometimes occur.

On the other hand it is possible for heavy and timely falls of rain to limit the worst effects to relatively small areas, as happened during the last El Niño which occurred in 1997. In other words, each El Niño is different.

Autumn rainfall this year was below to very much below average over much of the country. Also, rainfall deficiencies dating from a few months before autumn affect Tasmania, SE Queensland, NE New South Wales, western Victoria and parts of South Australia. Further dry weather arising from an El Niño event could therefore have serious consequences.

For specific planning advice, rural businesses should contact their State Departments of Agriculture or Primary Industry.

Weekly updates of important data are available on the Bureau's El Niņo Wrap-Up page.

The Australian impacts of 23 El Niño events since 1900 are summarized on the Bureau's web site.

More information on this statement is available from 9:00am to 5:30pm (EST) Monday to Friday by contacting the following climate meteorologists in the National Climate Centre:

Grant Beard on (03) 9669 4527
Blair Trewin on (03) 9669 4603
David Jones on (03) 9669 4085
Neil Plummer on (03) 9669 4086 (AH: MOB 0419 117865)

The next statement on El Niño is expected in mid to late July.