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Brace yourself for extreme El Ninos every 10 years

IANS  |  Sydney 

The world currently experiences an unusually strong El Nino event every 20 years but according to a new research, this would double to one event every 10 years.

Extreme weather events fuelled by unusually strong El Ninos - such as the 1983 heatwave that led to massive bushfires in Australia - are likely to double in number as our planet warms.

"El Nino events are a multi-dimensional problem and only now we are beginning to understand better how they respond to global warming," said Agus Santoso of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (CoECSS) in Australia.

The team examined 20 climate models that consistently simulate major rainfall reorganisation during extreme El Nino events.

They found a substantial increase in events from the present-day through the next 100 years as the eastern Pacific Ocean warmed in response to global warming.

"This latest research based on rainfall patterns, suggests that extreme El Nino events are likely to double in frequency as the world warms leading to direct impact on extreme weather events worldwide," said Wenju Cai of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

"The question of how global warming would change the frequency of extreme El Niño events has challenged scientists for more than 20 years," said co-author Mike McPhaden of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This research is the first comprehensive examination of the issue to produce robust and convincing results," he added in the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Extreme El Nino events develop differently from standard El Ninos, which first appear in the western Pacific.

Extreme El Ninos occur when sea surface temperatures exceeding 28 degrees Celsius develop in the normally cold and dry eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.

This different location for the origin of the temperature increase causes massive changes in global rainfall patterns.

First Published: Mon, January 20 2014. 12:08 IST