AUSTRALIA’S big wet could finally be over, with a potentially drought-inducing El Nino weather pattern likely to descend on Australia’s east later this year.
El Nino and its opposite, La Nina, are triggered by Pacific Ocean warming and cooling and can have profound impacts on Australia’s climate. The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed earlier this year that the back-to-back La Ninas of 2010-11 and 2011-12 caused Australia’s wettest two-year period on record.
El Nino, by contrast, can cause widespread drought and high temperatures and, in Victoria, crop failures and the conditions for severe bushfires.
Climatologist Catherine Ganter, from the National Climate Centre, said conditions in the Pacific Ocean were ”sitting on the threshold of El Nino”.
”It’s more likely than not that we’ll have an El Nino,” said Ms Ganter. It is possible for a mild El Nino to bring devastating drought, and for a strong El Nino to have little effect, she said.
”El Nino strength doesn’t relate to the severity of the effect,” she said. With a La Nina, by contrast, ”if it’s a whopping great one it tends to result in us getting a lot of rain”.