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El Nino likelihood downgraded – for now, at least

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The Bureau of Meteorology today slashed the chances of an El Nino weather system developing this year, bringing potential relief to drought-hit regions.

Indicators have been close to El Nino thresholds for several months, but the bureau says the patterns have started to weaken.

As a result, the outlook has been downgraded from El Nino “alert” (75% chance) to “watch”.

However, there is still a 50% chance of El Nino developing this year – double the normal likelihood.

El Nino typically brings drier than average conditions for eastern Australia during winter and spring, and warmer days across the southern two-thirds of the country.

“While sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean remain close to El Nino levels, water beneath the surface has slowly cooled over the past few months,” the bureau says.

“International models surveyed by the bureau indicate that sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are likely to remain near El Nino thresholds until mid-winter, before cooling in late winter to spring.”

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral. However, the bureau says models suggest a positive IOD event is likely to develop in winter, and persist into mid-spring.

A positive IOD often results in less rainfall and higher than normal temperatures over parts of Australia during winter and spring.

The bureau has also issued a weather warning for north Queensland as ex-tropical cyclone Ann approaches the coast.

Heavy rain, which may lead to flash flooding, and gales are likely to develop on the coast and ranges between Lockhart River and Ingham tonight and tomorrow.