Severe El Niño likely to persist until 2016

Climate forecasters are warning Pacific countries to make long term preparations for what looks to be one of the worst El Niño events in many years.

New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says water temperatures, which dictate El Niño's strenght, are already 3-5 degrees above normal with the potential to climb even higher in coming months.

Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga are already affected by drought, with hundreds of thousands of farmers in PNG's Highlands region losing crops, prompting a national disaster response.

NIWA Forecaster Chris Brandolino says the current El Niño is projected to last well into the new year.

"This could be one of the strongest El Niños we have seen in many years. The last super-intense El Niño was back in 1997 and 1998. And because El Niño is forecast to persist through through the upcoming spring and the upcoming summer in the Southern Hemisphere its likely the conditions that will accompany El Niño will also persist."