The El Nino that’s changing weather across the globe is now the strongest since the record event almost two decades ago. Sea temperature anomalies in the central Pacific Ocean are now at their highest since 1997–98, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said in a fortnightly update on its website. The values are still below the peak observed in the period, it said. Forecasters in the U.S. predict the El Nino may be the strongest in records going back to 1950. It has already brought torrential rains to parts of South America and dryness to Southeast Asia.

The Philippines plans to boost rice imports to prepare for potential shortages, while Rabobank International warned that the weather event is a key risk to Australian wheat crops. “Most of the eight international climate models surveyed by the bureau indicate there is likely to be some further warming of central Pacific Ocean during the coming months,” the Australian forecaster said. “About half the models indicate the event may begin to plateau during spring to early summer.” FULL REPORT