Delhi: There is a strong chance of El Niño conditions forming by early next year which will lead to a warm winter, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its latest forecast issued on Tuesday.

The specialized UN agency said there is 75-80% chance of an El Niño developing by February. The WMO, however, highlighted that it is not expected to be a strong event.

A re-occurring natural phenomenon, El Niño happens when sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean warm up, which has a major influence on weather and climate patterns in many parts of the world.

The phenomenon which happens every two to seven years is associated with higher global temperatures and droughts. In India, it hampers the advance of the south-west monsoon from June to September, impacts rainfall and is associated with droughts.

“It is too early to say if it (El Niño conditions) will impact the south-west monsoon. But the forecast indicates that it is likely to weaken during spring in February, much before the monsoon makes it onset, so there may not be that much impact on the next monsoon. But we could witness warmer-than-usual temperatures during the winter," said D. S. Pai, head of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in Pune.

According to the WMO, the chance of a full-fledged El Niño between December 2018 and February 2019 is estimated to be about 75-80%, and about 60% for it to continue through February-April 2019.

While the latest forecast alleviates concerns over a weaker monsoon next year due to El Nino, its impact on winter-temperatures could be much evident.

The last El nino in 2015 was among the strongest ever recorded, which led to catastrophic damages across the globe. It was also the warmest year ever recorded on earth.

“The forecast El Niño is not expected to be as powerful as the event in 2015-2016, which was linked with droughts, flooding and coral bleaching in different parts of the world. Even so, it can still significantly affect rainfall and temperature patterns in many regions, with important consequences to agricultural and food security sectors, and it may combine with long-term climate change to boost 2019 global temperatures," said Maxx Dilley, Director of the WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation branch.

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