Current El Nino one of strongest ever: PNG specialist

The El Niño now underway in the country is one of the strongest events ever measured, says John Demerua, a climate specialist with NARI.

Demerua said it was already causing droughts and flooding in different parts of the world, affecting food production, water availability, public health and energy supplies.

“The current El Niño is likely to peak towards the end of 2015 and continue into the first half of 2016”, Demerua said

“The tropical central and eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures have warmed significantly in recent months and are now at levels not seen since the 1997/98 event.

“Tropical cloudiness has shifted east and the trade winds near the equator have been consistently weaker than normal.”

He said most El Niño events peak late in the year in which they develop and weaken towards the first half of the following year.

“As every El Niño is different, it is possible that the duration, peak and weakening stages will be different to those in the past.”

Demerua said the El Niño induced drought was evident with drier than normal conditions already being experienced in many parts of the country.

“These conditions are likely to continue for several months. The strong humid winds that usually affect the tropical zones known as the monsoons which PNG experiences every year will be uneven due to the ocean warming in the Pacific.

“The sea-surface temperature for the week ending October 2015 shows warm anomalies in the Central and Eastern tropical Pacific whilst cooler anomalies persist in the Western tropical Pacific Ocean. These patterns are characteristics of El Niño conditions.”

Demerua said the last major El Niño occurred in 1997/98, wreaking widespread havoc and erasing years of development gains.

He added that the world is much better prepared for this year’s El Niño, but the socio-economic shocks will still be profound.

However Demerua cautioned that PNG communities should be vary of any extreme weather conditions (in rainfall) that may follow this El Nino induced drought, as is always the case in ENSO events. 

Seniorl Anzu