Writing in the journal Natural Climate Change, lead researcher Anthony Fowler says New Zealanders at least should expect more extreme events, such as flooding and drought, in the future.
He says the intensity and frequency of such occurrences are likely to be similar to what has been seen over the past three decades, or even possibly on a larger scale.
“The El Niño/La Niña phenomenon has been referred to as the heartbeat of the world,” Fowler says. “After the seasonal cycle and monsoons, it’s the most important source of year-on-year climate variation.”
He points out the cyclical Pacific Ocean surface warming and cooling have been responsible for some of the most devastating droughts in Australia, floods in South America and failure of the monsoons in India since the latter part of the 20th century.