Press Releases

    ENV/DEV/673
    29 August 2002

    CURRENT EL NIÑO WILL PERSIST INTO EARLY 2003,
    AFFECTING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

    Link with Asian Floods but Unlikely Connected to Floods in Central Europe

    (Reissued as received.)


    JOHANNESBURG/GENEVA, 28 August -- The current El Niño event striking the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific basin is expected to persist for the remainder of the year and into 2003, says the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in its latest El Niño Outlook. Despite the fact that El Niño is not expected to reach the strength of the last 1997-1998 event, conditions in the tropical Pacific are likely to be sufficiently anomalous to create substantial consequences in some regions. This development calls for proactive measures to reduce vulnerability and strengthen capacity to reduce the impact of floods and droughts, as recognized in the draft Plan of Implementation that is currently being discussed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

    It is likely that some unusual climate patterns observed in the last two months could be related at least in part to the basin-wide El Niño that has now developed in the tropical Pacific. However, the climate system functions by integrating many factors in addition to El Niño. Thus it can be difficult in the case of this relatively weak episode so far to attribute to it with confidence individual abnormal climate patterns or weather events that have been observed in recent weeks in Pacific and Pacific Rim countries. This is certainly the case for the several abnormal weather events that have been observed further afield.

    While the current floods in China and the recent floods in India and Bangladesh may well be linked to this El Niño event, those in Central Europe are unlikely to have any such connection. However, they are all part of the same complex and highly variable climate system that governs the environment in which we live; a system that is undoubtedly changing.

    Serious droughts are occurring in SADC countries of southern and central Africa, which is resulting in starvation and global outcry for food aid. While there has been relief in some areas in recent weeks, other areas remain unseasonably dry. It seems unlikely that the El Niño event is playing a significant role in determining current patterns of drought and rainfall across southern Africa. Records of past El Niño events would suggest, nonetheless, an increased probability of drier conditions across parts of Southern Africa should the event persist into 2003, and especially if it were to intensify. It should be recalled, however, that despite the intensity of the 1997-98 El Niño, dry conditions over Southern Africa were generally averted by more favourable climate patterns prevailing at the time over the adjacent Indian Ocean.

    The climate system is currently feeling effects of the warmer than normal sea surface temperatures along the equator in the central and eastern Pacific, and a tendency can be expected for climate patterns consistent with those associated with previous El Niño events. Since the warmth has been present since late May, it is probable that some atypical climate patterns observed since that time have at least in part been related to these changes in the tropical Pacific.

    These would include the unusual nature of the summer monsoon season across the Indian Subcontinent, notably the rainfall deficiencies in central and southern parts contrasting with excessive rainfall in the north-east, and the dry conditions over Indonesia and across large tracts of the Australian continent. There is concern now that the dry conditions that developed over large areas of central and eastern Australia in the past several months may be worsened by a persistence of the current El Niño event.

    The situation in the tropical Pacific will continue to be carefully monitored and further advisories will be issued. More detailed interpretations for regional climate fluctuations are likely to be generated routinely by the climate forecasting community over the coming months and will be made available through National Meteorological Services.

    Acknowledgement

    The preparation of this El Niño Outlook statement has been coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization as a contribution to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. It has drawn on contributions and support from the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI)*,Australian Bureau of Meteorology, China Meteorological Administration, National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology of Ecuador, European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, Japan Meteorological Agency, Korea Meteorological Administration, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand, National Meteorological and Hydrological Service of Peru, Met Office United Kingdom, United States Climate Prediction Center (CPC)*, and the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) Project of the World Climate Research Programme.

    For more information, please contact:

    At the WSSD In Johannesburg

    Ms. Carine Richard-Van Maele
    Chief, Information and Public Affairs
    World Meteorological Organization
    Sandton Conference Center
    Phone: +27 (0) 82 858 33 42
    Fax: +27 11 234 08 83
    E-mail: vanmaele@gateway.wmo.ch
    Website: www.wmo.ch

    At WMO headquarters

    Ms. Mo Lagarde
    Information Officer
    World Meteorological Organization
    7 bis, Av. De la Paix
    CH-1211 GENEVA 2
    Phone: +41(0) 22 730 85 32
    Fax: +41(0) 22 730 0 27
    E-mail: Lagarde M@gatewa.wmo.ch


    At the WSSD in Johannesburg

    Ms. Helena Molin-Valdes
    Senior Officer Policy Issues
    UN Secretariat for the International
    Strategy for Disaster Reduction
    Tel: +41 79 217 30 60
    E-mail: molinvaldes@un.org
    Website: www.unisdr.org

    * *** *

    ___________________________

    * The IRI and CPC operate within the supporting framework of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).