El Niño conditions "likely" to develop in second half of 2017

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Farmers in Ethiopia. The Horn of Africa was one of the areas hardest hit by El Niño last year. Photo: FAO/Tamiru Legesse.

Despite the absence of El Niño weather conditions so far this year, there is a greater than 50 per cent chance they will develop later in 2017.

That's the warning coming from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Friday.

El Niño weather patterns lead to fluctuating ocean temperatures and have a major destabilizing effect in many parts of the world.

Matthew Wells reports.

El Niño is associated with a band of warm ocean water in the equatorial Pacific region, which causes a rise in air temperatures that can lead to heavy rains.

It impacts developing countries the most and for the first few months of 2017, so-called neutral conditions have persisted, but WMO is predicting that from June, El Niño conditions are "more likely" to appear.

The Director of WMO's Climate Prediction division, Maxx Dilley, said that "memories are still fresh" of the powerful 2015-16 event associated with "droughts, flooding and coral bleaching in different parts of the world."

He said that combined with long-term climate change, it had led to increasing temperatures and "record highs" in that two-year period.

He added that accurate predictions of each event could save "untold lives" and were essential to help agricultural and food security sectors, water management, and disaster risk reduction efforts.

WMO said it would monitor the likelihood of El Niño events closely in the coming months, and it was important to bear in mind that Friday's forecast was preliminary, and more accurate data would be available after June.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1'05"

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