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El Nino may make a comeback as Australia sees Pacific warming

Phoebe Sedgman

Less than a year after the world said goodbye to one of the strongest El Ninos on record, forecasters are predicting the weather pattern may make a comeback.

Climate models indicate the central Pacific Ocean will probably warm over coming months, suggesting neutral conditions or El Nino are the most likely scenarios for the southern hemisphere winter-spring period, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said on its website. Five models show El Nino thresholds may be reached by mid-to-late winter, it said. Australia’s winter starts in June.

The 2015-16 El Nino was the strongest since the record event of 1997-98. The pattern reduced rainfall in the Indian monsoon, parched farmlands, and curbed production of cocoa in Ivory Coast, rice in Thailand and coffee in Indonesia. India’s Skymet Weather Services said last week that El Nino showed signs of resurfacing in coming months.

The El Nino-Southern Oscillation is set to remain neutral through summer and autumn, according to the Australian weather bureau. Model outlooks that span the southern hemisphere autumn tend to have lower accuracy and forecasts beyond May should be used with some caution, it said.

El Nino is one phase in the larger three-part ENSO cycle. It represents the warm phase, La Nina is when the equatorial Pacific cools, and ENSO Neutral is in-between. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said in November that a weak La Nina had started.

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