Drought-bearing El Nino has ended, says Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology

El Nino, which emerged in June, 2023 resulting in deficient rainfall in India and leading to water shortage in some parts, has ended and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has returned to neutral, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has said. 

Climate models indicate ENSO will likely continue to be neutral until at least July, 2024, the Australian weather agency said in its weather update on Tuesday.

25% of India hit

It said international climate models suggest ENSO will likely continue to be neutral at least till July, 2024. Three of seven international models are predicting central Pacific SSTs to reach La Niña thresholds in July. However, El Niño and La Niña predictions made in mid-autumn tend to have lower accuracy than predictions made at other times of the year. This means that current forecasts of the ENSO state beyond July should be used with caution, the Australian weather agency said.

El Nino’s emergence resulted in at least a fourth of India being affected by drought and over 40 per cent of the country receiving deficient rainfall. This, in turn, led to water shortage in reservoirs and a sharp drop in groundwater in States such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

El Nino affected agriculture with production of crops such as paddy, pulses, coarse cereals, especially maize, groundnut and horticulture crops such as onion declining this crop year to June. 

The Bureau of Meteorology said oceanic and atmospheric indicators are now pointing to neutral ENSO, which is a fall out from sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central Pacific steadily cooling since December, 2023. 

Substantial cooling

Over the last fortnight, there has been substantial cooling and within the historical thresholds for neutral ENSO, it said. The cooling has been supported by a significant amount of sub-surface cooling beneath the central and eastern Pacific Ocean – a typical characteristic of the El Nino phase leading to ENSO. 

In addition, global sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have been the warmest on record for each month between April, 2023 and March, 2024. Month-to-date data for April, 2024 indicates this month is tracking warmer than April, 2023. 

The global pattern of warmth is affecting the typical historical global pattern of sea surface temperatures associated with ENSO variability.  

On the other hand, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral. Despite the positive IOD values being mostly from record warmth in the north-west Indian Ocean, atmospheric indicators in the eastern Indian Ocean may be consistent with a developing positive IOD.

The India Meteorological Department on Monday said IOD was likely to develop during the latter stage of the south-west monsoon (June-September). 

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