Drier, warmer winter seen for parts of Australia as El Nino threat grows

SYDNEY: Australia’s populous east coast is likely to have a drier, warmer winter, the weather bureau said on Tuesday (May 23), as it forecast the likelihood of an El Nino weather pattern could be twice as high this year.

Drier weather would return Australia to its long-term trend of hotter weather and declining rainfall after a record three straight years of La Nina, the colder counterpart pattern that brought record floods and rainfall to the east coast.

The El Nino, associated with less rainfall in winter and spring, is at least twice as likely this year, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said in a forecast on Tuesday.

However, while temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean are very likely to hit the El Nino threshold during winter, the atmospheric conditions required to declare one have not yet appeared, it added.

Dry weather could be exacerbated by the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) pattern turning positive, as suggested by five models of the bureau.

But the IOD is neutral at the moment, and the bureau warned of the general low accuracy of long-range forecasts made at this time of year.

Forecasts for the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the Southern Annual Mode, two weather features, are also trending towards conditions associated with drier weather.

Climate change has warmed Australia by around 1.5°C between 1910 to 2021, the bureau said. Rainfall has also declined by between 10 per cent to 20 per cent across Southern Australia during the April to October cool season in recent decades.

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