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Bad news on El Nino -

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ASHLEY HALL: For a while now scientists have believed the drought producing El Nino weather pattern
is changing and now they've predicted the most severe type of El Nino will become five times more
common.

This El Nino called Modoki produces less rainfall in southern Australia and shorter but stronger
monsoons in the north.

It's the type of weather that feeds dust storms like that which swept across eastern Australia
yesterday.

The research by South Korea's Ocean Research and Development Institute has been published in the
latest edition of the journal Nature.

Professor Matthew England from the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre has
been analysing the research and he spoke to our reporter Annie Guest.

MATTHEW ENGLAND: One of the new things in this research is to look at how El Ninos will evolve into
the next few decades and what the researchers have found is that this Central Pacific variety of El
Nino will be more prevalent come the end of the century.

ANNIE GUEST: That's the El Nino known as Modoki. What will we see in Australia with more of these
types of El Ninos?

MATTHEW ENGLAND: It is difficult to say with absolute certainty what more of these Modoki events
will bring us but it's worth noting that in 2002 we had a Modoki event that gave us extremely low
rainfall. A lot of the Australian east coast had the lowest rainfall on record for that year. So
there is anecdotal evidence that these Modoki events can bring us very severe droughts.

But it's also important to recognise that not every El Nino is the same as past events and even
amongst all the Modoki events we have observed, there is a substantial variation on how severe the
drought is.

ANNIE GUEST: There were severe dust storms across parts of eastern Australia yesterday. Is there
any relationship between this prediction of more of these east Pacific El Ninos, drought bringing
El Ninos and problems with dust?

MATTHEW ENGLAND: It's absolutely consistent with climate change projections to have these dust
storms occur with more frequency and greater intensity simply because we are expecting the southern
part of Australia to become drier and when you dry the continent you do tend to have more of this
stuff available, once the wind whips up a fierce gale like it did yesterday.

ANNIE GUEST: If this research predicts that these drought producing Modoki El Ninos will become
five times more common, have scientists been able to establish how many of these events we'll see?

MATTHEW ENGLAND: Yeah, no, it's a good question. Typically the El Nino events come around every
three to seven years. It is irregular and chaotic and so it's a bit like predicting how many heat
waves you have in a summer. You can have six one year and then only one the next.

There are other researchers who have looked at projections of climate into the future that show
more regular El Nino events. There are other models that show only very insignificant changes to
the number of El Ninos that we have.

ANNIE GUEST: So farmers listening to this don't necessarily need to start worrying that they are
going to see less rain and more drought?

MATTHEW ENGLAND: No because really what this is about is what sort of El Nino events we get. Really
in terms of the Australian farming sector, the big concern for them is the long term projected
drying of the southern part of Australia.

ASHLEY HALL: Professor Matthew England from the University of New South Wales Climate Change
Research Centre speaking with our reporter Annie Guest.