Australian researchers say a study of how climate change will affect an Indian Ocean oscillation pattern similar to the Pacific Ocean's El Nino suggests if the world is allowed to warm uncontrollably these kinds of extreme events will become the norm by 2050, NewScientist reported Friday.
The Indian Ocean Dipole is an oscillation of warm water across the equator that in its positive phase increases sea surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea rise but lowers them around Sumatra, Indonesia.
In the negative phase, the temperature variations are reversed.
Scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization the positive phase is becoming more frequent, with an unprecedented 11 occurrences in the past 30 years.
Most of the time, they said, the ocean oscillation is dampened by the wind flowing in the opposite direction, which minimizes the strength of positive phases.
However, climate models predict this wind will weaken as the world warms, meaning rather than swinging between positive and negatives events the dipole will increasingly remain in the positive phase.
If that happens, the researchers said, climate events like floods and drought, now considered extreme, could become the norm by 2050.
"The mean condition will resemble what is now the positive state," researcher Wenju Cai said. "We will need to change our definitions to refer to the new normal conditions."