Max Fleet

Severe drought warning soon to be a reality for Clarence

CLARENCE Valley residents have been warned to put their jumpers and tracksuits back in the bottom drawer and rescue their shorts and t-shirts from hibernation with the tropical Pacific region tipped to head deep into a severe El Nino weather pattern.

A spokesperson from the Bureau of Meteorology, which forecast the El Nino weather pattern in May, said it has now developed into a mature system and is expected to remain in place well into 2016.

"The ocean and atmosphere are reinforcing each other, with tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures well above El Nino thresholds, consistently weakened trade winds and a strongly negative Southern Oscillation Index," the spokesperson said.

"Strong coupling of the tropical Pacific Ocean and atmosphere is typical of a mature El Nino and suggests only a small chance of the event finishing before the end of the year."

BOM manager of climate prediction services Andrew Watkins said the current El Nino cycle has been likened to some of the worst Australia has experienced including the 1982-83 and 1997-98 events, both of which triggered widespread drought across the nation.

"Where we're sitting now, there's a clear comparison with some of the strongest events we've seen in the past," he said.

"We're not expecting the event to peak until late in the year or early 2016."

Mr Watkins' expectations have been mirrored by peak climate bodies around the world including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which said that latest readings "reflect a significant and strengthening El Nino".

Clarence Valley residents will likely observe the El Nino system with bated breath, as climatologists predict a La Nina system to return following its conclusion. The last La Nina system brought floods to the Valley in 2012.

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