How Will El Nino Change in the Future?
By: Nicola Maher, a Research and DECRA Fellow at The Australian National University, Canberra, and Malte Stuecker, an assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography and the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii at Mnoa.
Current evidence suggests both El Nino and La Nina could change significantly over the next 70 years, which will have consequences for how they impact us.
El Niño and La Niña events are likely to get stronger over the next few decades before possibly weakening towards the end of the century, new research predicts.
After three consecutive years of La Niñas, in early July the World Meteorological Organization declared an El Niño is underway, increasing the likelihood of hotter temperatures in many parts of the world.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology followed suit this week.
But over the next 70-odd years expect to see much changed El Niño and La Niña events, according to the results of simulations using climate models from all over the world. Such modeling is extremely complex though, so uncertainties remain.
Increases or decreases in rainfall due to El Niño or La Niña events are projected to become more extreme, and these events will tend to be even more concentrated in the Southern Hemisphere summer rather than the rest of the calendar year.
These projections are consistent with observations of more extreme El Niño events in recent decades.
The models also predict that the warmest El Niño sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific will likely move more frequently from the east towards the central Pacific and that stronger and longer La Niña events will follow El Niños.
These predicted changes are important because of the impacts El Niño and La Niña events have globally.
Locally in Australia, an El Niño typically causes bushfires or forest fires and drought, while a La Niña yields flooding rain. In Indonesia, it results in a prolonged dry season.