The Philippines and many countries in the Pacific may be faced with another spell of El Niño later this year, an Australian meteorological agency said, months after the region wilted under intense heat following one of the worst dry spells on record.
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, climate model outlooks it surveyed suggest that the likelihood of El Niño forming in 2017 has risen, pushing the bureau’s El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) status from “neutral” to “watch” which means that the likelihood of El Niño developing in 2017 is approximately 50 percent.
“Seven of eight international models surveyed by the Bureau indicate steady warming in the central tropical Pacific Ocean over the next six months. Six models suggest El Niño thresholds may be reached by July 2017,” it said in a statement.
ENSO is the phenomenon arising from the interaction of the ocean and the atmosphere in the east-central equatorial Pacific. This results in a periodic variation between below-normal and above-normal sea surface temperatures over the course of several years.
This interaction between the ocean the atmosphere is an essential part of an El Niño phenomenon. During an episode of El Niño, sea level pressure is lower in the eastern Pacific and higher in the western Pacific. The reverse happens during La Niña.
In late 2015 to June 2016, the Philippines experienced one of the most severe El Niño phenomena on record. The agriculture sector took a serious hit, with the production of staple crops such as rice at low levels.
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The Philippines experienced similar droughts in 1998 when 70 percent of the country was affected and P4 billion worth of crops was damaged. The agriculture sector, the second biggest employer in the country, contracted by 6.4 percent that year, which resulted in the decline of the gross domestic product that year.
The Australian meteorological bureau said that although atmospheric and oceanic indicators of ENSO are still on normal levels, sea surface temperatures have been increasing in the eastern Pacific.
On average, according to the bureau, sea surface temperatures are now warmer than average for the first time since June 2016.
El Niño in the Philippines is characterized by delayed onset or early termination of the rainy season. Weak monsoon activity is also experienced during this episode as well as weak tropical cyclone activity. # Adapted News