Connector Newsletter Issue 38

Should we be worried about an El Niño? 

July 17, 2023

By Stephen Brend, Project Officer 

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The short answer to the question posed by this piece’s title is “no, but we should be prepared.”  It has been said that the weather is a bit like a person’s mood, but climate is like their personality.  El Niño is a climate driver; it will affect the character of the coming summer. 

How an El Niño develops is complicated, involving oceanic currents, sea temperatures, prevailing winds and atmospheric conditions.  Given all those factors it is not surprising that, when they all come together, the impacts are felt around the world.  Indeed, even though El Niño is primarily associated with the Pacific Ocean, and so Australia’s East coast, it can cause droughts in Southern Africa.  The “Climate Dogs” series of animations, developed by the Bureau of Meteorology and available on You Tube, are a great summary of the science and impacts.   

In Australia, El Niño years are associated with hotter, drier conditions.  This obviously increases the risk of bushfires.  This is why we should be prepared.  While this is obviously true of every summer, an El Niño increases the risks.  Readers can look at the CFA’s “Plan and Prepare” webpages for more information.   

It is encouraging that the 2018-2019 El Niño, which was Australia’s hottest summer on record, was not marked by catastrophic fire.  Nevertheless, it looks likely that we will enter an El Niño this year and so we should get ready. 



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