For the last few months, climatologists around the world have been warning that El Nino conditions may soon emerge, and now a Professor from the University of Southern Queensland says that the phenomenon is already with us.
El Nino is the slight warming of the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Although it sounds insignificant, it can have a devastating impact on the weather around the world. Details of the phenomenon can be found here.
Climatologist Roger Stone told Australia's ABC News, "The sea temperatures are already 1 or 2 degrees above normal, and right along the South American coast, perhaps 2 or 3 degrees above normal.
"That's the tell-tale sign of an early stage to an El Nino event."
El Nino conditions increase the likelihood of a drought in Australia, as well as other parts of the world, such as Indonesia and South Africa. Elsewhere, places such as Peru and the southern US states are more vulnerable to floods.
However, as Professor Stone explains, the drought doesn’t appear from nowhere. "The El Nino [pattern] is a little cruel, it allows some early rain to come in at the early stages, before it really develops," he said.
"New South Wales for June to August [rainfall] is showing quite high probability, especially around the Western Slopes and Liverpool Plains.
"Down through Victoria, a lot of southern Australia, even Tasmania is showing up with reasonable rainfall probability.
"The outlook as we go to late winter, spring and summer is nowhere near as good as this [June to August]."
Separate meteorological institutions have slightly different criteria which need to be fulfilled before El Nino can be officially declared. For example, the US agency NOAA need three months of above average sea temperatures before they can announce an El Nino event.
This means that there is never a universal declaration of the arrival of an El Nino event, nor its subsequent demise. However, Professor Roger Stone is thought to be the first climatologist who has officially declared that the phenomenon is already with us.