Australian scientists on Tuesday forecast a “substantial” El Nino weather phenomenon for 2015, potentially spelling deadly and costly climate extremes, after officially declaring its onset in the tropical Pacific. El Nino had been expected last year when record-breaking temperatures made 2014 the hottest in more than a century. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said while the thresholds were not met until now it was expected to be a significant event. The Japan Meteorological Agency also confirmed the phenomenon had begun and forecast it would continue into late 2015.

“There’s always a little bit of doubt when it comes to intensity forecasts, but across the models as a whole we’d suggest that this will be quite a substantial El Nino event,” David Jones, from the bureau’s climate information services branch said. “Certainly the models aren’t predicting a weak event. They are predicting a moderate-to-strong El Nino event. So this is a proper El Nino event, this is not a weak one or a near miss as we saw last year.” The El Nino phenomenon — which is associated with drought conditions in Australia — can cause havoc for farmers and global agricultural markets, hitting economies heavily dependent on the land. FULL REPORT