UN agency sees 70% chance of El Nino this year

At least 600 families from five different indigenous communities in Honduras are facing starvation due to the loss of their crops, after the sever droughts caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.
At least 600 families from five different indigenous communities in Honduras are facing starvation due to the loss of their crops, after the sever droughts caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA • An El Nino event that could disrupt global weather is likely by the end of what has already been a hot year, the UN has said.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) - an agency under the United Nations - has forecast a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino developing by the end of this year, reported Agence France-Presse.

El Nino is triggered by periodic warming in the eastern Pacific Ocean which can trigger drought in some regions and heavy rain in others.

"WMO does not expect the anticipated El Nino to be as powerful as the 2015-2016 event, but it will still have considerable impact," the WMO said on Monday.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) believes the El Nino event of 2015-2016 was one of the strongest in recent history, and that a repeat on that scale is unlikely.

"Should the El Nino occur, it is not likely to have a significant impact on rainfall patterns over Singapore and the nearby region due to its expected weak to moderate intensity and late development during the year-end rainy season," an MSS spokesman said in a recent interview.

Professor Benjamin Horton, a principal investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, however, warns of the potential impact on soaring temperatures.

"The year 2016 ranks as the warmest on record globally and here in Singapore, which had a mean annual temperature of 28.4 deg C," he said. He added that mainland South-east Asia encountered its warmest mean monthly surface air temperatures in April 2016, going by records that began more than 100 years ago.

"Therefore, there is a possibility that 2018 and 2019 will match or perhaps even exceed the temperature records set in 2016 for Southeast Asia and will challenge even the wealthiest, most developed countries of South-east Asia, and will be devastating for the poorest and least developed."

• Additional reporting by Jose Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2018, with the headline 'UN agency sees 70% chance of El Nino this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe