1997 was the last severe El Nino in Asia. This year’s climate conditions are eerily similar to those seen in 1997, when the worst El Nino phenomenon on record caused extreme drought and floods. Surface ocean data sent via satellite in early May is quite similar to that recorded in the spring of 1997, according to NASA, referring to the year when the biggest-ever El Nino hit many parts of the world. This is a sign that an extreme El Nino is brewing.
Chances of El Nino this summer at 70%
One factor triggering concern is that surface ocean temperatures in a vast area stretching some 8,000km westward off the coast of Peru are higher than usual. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center on June 5 put the chances of an El Nino developing this summer at 70%, raising the odds by 5 percentage points.
The worry stems from El Nino’s potential to cause intense drought and flooding. Remember the great supply chain issues that happened worldwide with the 2011 Thailand floods? In addition to such disasters, agriculture and food production will be hit hard, so much so that economies could be chilled. In 1997-98, unusual events such as drought wreaked havoc in Southeast Asia and Oceania, with steep drops in precipitation damaging farm production. Grain production in Australia and the Philippines sank by double digits to unprecedentedly low levels.