A farmer works in an irrigated field near the village of Botor, Somaliland, April 16, 2016. A severe El Nino-related drought hit in 2015 and 2016. A milder El Nino event is predicted to develop by February 2019.
A farmer works in an irrigated field near the village of Botor, Somaliland, April 16, 2016. A severe El Nino-related drought hit in 2015 and 2016. A milder El Nino event is predicted to develop by February 2019.

GENEVA - There is a 75 to 80 percent probability of an El Nino weather phenomenon developing within the next three months, the World Meteorological Organization reports.

Global seasonal climate data show precipitation patterns predicted for December to February resemble those normally associated with El Nino, WMO said, adding that it is not expected to be as powerful as the deadly event in 2015 and 2016, which caused droughts, flooding and coral bleaching around the world.

While a weaker El Nino is expected to emerge, WMO scientists warn it still can have a significant impact on rainfall and temperature patterns. They say it could adversely affect agriculture and food security, the management of water resources, and public health.

WMO spokeswoman Claire Nullis tells VOA neutral weather conditions have prevailed for the past few months, with neither El Nino nor its opposite La Nina present. While they are associated with extreme weather events, she says they are not the only factors.

"And we need to bear in mind, we have got climate change," she said. "So, every El Nino, every La Nina, which takes place now is taking place against a background of the fact that we are living in a dramatically altered climate compared to even 50 years ago. So, the impacts, for instance, on heat waves are likely to be more pronounced than they were several decades ago."

El Nino and La Nina are phases of what is known as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycle, or ENSO. This phenomenon involves fluctuations in temperatures between the ocean and atmosphere in the equatorial Pacific. 

El Nino is sometimes referred to as the warm phase of ENSO, with La Nina acting as its cold opposite. WMO says both events have a major influence on weather and climate patterns over many parts of the world.