Australian news, and some related international items

More drought, more heat, if a large El Nino event occurs in 2019


‘Monster’ El Nino a chance later this year, pointing to extended dry times , Brisbane Times, By Peter Hannam, March 15, 2019  Relief for Australia’s drought-hit regions could be a long way off, with climate influences in the Pacific and Indian oceans tilting towards drier conditions and a large El Nino event a possibility by year’s end.

Climate scientists said the conditions in the Pacific were particularly concerning given an unusual build-up of equatorial heat below the surface that could provide the fuel for a significant El Nino.

If such an event transpires, the Great Barrier Reef would face another bout of mass coral bleaching while the drought gripping southern and eastern Australia could intensify.

Agus Santoso, a senior scientist at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, said there were two likely outcomes from the developments in the Pacific.  “We could have an El Nino fully formed by the end of May and then it could dissipate,” Dr Santoso said.

“The other is that by May it’s already formed and it still keeps building up… and by the end of the year we could have a monster El Nino.”

During El Ninos, the normal easterly winds blowing along the equator slow and even reverse. Rainfall patterns tend to shift eastwards away from south-east Asia and Australia, setting up conditions favourable for below-average rainfall and bushfires………..

Climate change and big events

Dr Santoso’s research, including a paper published late last year, has found the frequency of big El Ninos will increase with climate change.

That result is “quite concerning”, particularly for ecosystems sensitive to heat spikes such as coral reefs that suffered mass bleaching during the 2015-16 big El Nino.

“If we get one or two bleaching events, [the Great Barrier Reef] can recover, but if we keep having these events coming up then maybe the corals are not going to be able to adapt,” Dr Santoso said.

During El Ninos, the Pacific Ocean takes less heat from the atmosphere and even gives some up, giving global surface temperatures a bump up.

The trialling years of big El Ninos, especially 1998 and 2016 – the current holder of the world’s hottest year on record – are particularly warm.

An event later this year would likely see temperatures next year “spike up, and that’s not very helpful for global warming”, Dr Santoso said.


March 16, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming

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