El Nino near peak intensity, some signs of easing - Australia

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2015 11:56 PM

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The current El Nino weather event is near its peak intensity and likely to persist well into 2016, but some indicators are showing signs of easing, Australia's weather bureau said on Tuesday.

Sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean remain close to record levels, the bureau said, and the 2015/16 El Nino will be the one of the three strongest events in the past 50 years.

The Australian assessment is in line with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which last week said sea surface temperatures in a key region were at the strongest since 1997.

The bureau said there were some signs of easing. The Southern Oscillation Index, which measures sea level pressure differences, has eased back into neutral values in recent weeks, it said.

The trade winds have also returned to more normal ranges and sub-surface sea temperatures have cooled slightly.

However, it said the current El Nino was strong and would continue well into the southern hemisphere autumn.

El Niño, the "little boy", is driven by warm surface water in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and can bring heavy rains and flooding to parts of the Americas and drought to eastern Australia and parts of Asia.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Richard Pullin)