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Global warming: ‘extreme’ El Nino events looming

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New research shows that climate change will lead to more extreme and frequent El Nino events, which could lead to more severe impacts on Australia.

An extreme or huge El Nino, similar to the ones that occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, will likely happen every 14 years instead of 20 years if global warming continues at its current pace, CSIRO climate expert Wenju Cai told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Dr Cai and other scientists involved in the research reached that conclusion from a study of 17 climate models that assessed changes in the eastern Pacific El Nino under future global warming scenarios.

Most of the models predicted a rise in sea surface temperature variability, which implies an increase in the number of strong eastern Pacific El Nino events.

“What we have found in this study is that the sea surface temperature variability associated with El Nino will increase in the future… and that translates into an increase in extreme El Nino event by 50%,” Dr Cai told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“For example, in the current climate if we are having an extreme EL Nino once in every 20 years, in the future climate we would reduce that period to around 14 years.”

Dr Cai says “increased emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere” are the key reason behind the projections for more frequent and extreme El Ninos in the future.

And that would likely mean Australians can expect droughts and bushfires to occur at shorter intervals and with stronger intensity.

“Under global warming, drought frequency increases, drought duration will be longer… We will have more droughts, more bushfires,” Dr Cai said.

Various climate studies have warned extreme weather events such as droughts and cyclones will become more regular and intense unless global emissions of man-made carbon pollutions can be sharply reduced.

Scientists say Australia is among the most vulnerable to climate change.

The country is in the midst of what farmers have described as the worst drought in history and weather experts are predicting an above-normal fire risk this summer.