El Niño floods, drought and storms could be worst in 50 years
THE world faces several months of extreme weather including storms, droughts and floods due to the strongest El Niño effect in 50 years, the UN has warned.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said El Niño this year was already "strong and mature" and the biggest in more than 15 years.
The phenomenon is driven by warm surface water in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and this time three-month averages will peak at more than 2C above normal, putting El Niño this year in the same league as those seen in 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98, the WMO said.
"Right now, we say we think it's really going to be one of the three strongest ones, it may be one of the two, that we don't know yet. But it's already a very strong one," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud warned.
Its effects are already being felt in Kenya, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Malawi, and Central America
Mr Jarraud said the world was better prepared for this El Niño than before, and the worst-affected countries were planning for the impact on millions of people, as well as on agriculture, fisheries, water and health, and implementing disaster management campaigns.
But heatwaves would be hotter and more frequent and more places would be at risk of flooding; while the most severe storms would occur more often.
Rising sea levels also mean tsunamis will inflict more damage when they hit land.