Climate experts are now all but certain this year will see the strongest ever El Nino develop in waters around the Equator with serious consequences for the UK.
When the phenomenon was announced earlier this year forecasters hoped it would fizzle out before winter.
But temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have been rising steadily and the most powerful El Nino on record is expected to be confirmed within days.
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The knock-on effects around the globe, which include unusually cold winters in Britain, could be catastrophic.
The last El Nino, six years ago, saw the UK crippled by the worst winter for decades with widespread harsh frosts, sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow setting in from early December and lasting until March.
This year could top that killer winter which saw airports closed for days and led to the deaths of more than 25,000 people.
Warnings have been issued across the southern United States where the strength of El Nino is already causing worrying shifts in the jet stream.
Climate experts say the region is set for below average temperatures and above average precipitation which is likely to fall as snow.
It is a frightening reminder back to the winter of 2009 which saw both the US and Great Britain crippled by heavy snow and weeks of sub-zero temperatures.
El Nino that year is thought to have played a pivotal role in the Arctic conditions with the current conditions already looking much more powerful.
The El Nino is likely to bring severe weather across the Atlantic to Britain
The oceanographic anomaly is the result of a change in wind direction pulling warm waters away from Asia towards Peru and South America.
UK forecasters are also bracing themselves for the worst with all the ingredients in place for a lengthy and savagely cold and snowy season.
Climate scientists say it is still too early to know the full impact of the coming winter but agree a strong El Nino points towards severe weather.
This El Nino could be the strongest in decades. In 2010 the El Nino played a part in bringing huge amounts of snow to the UK
James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said the winter outlook has worsened thanks to plunging Atlantic sea temperatures.
The Gulf stream, which pulls warm water from the eastern coast of the United States to the United Kingdom, has been rapidly declining, he added.
He said: “There will be a real chill at times in terms of temperatures due to below- average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and a virtually non-existent Gulf Stream.
“This is of some real significance to us in terms of future weather patterns and this is also likely to result in a much colder than average November with the first significant snow of the year in parts of the north for the UK.
“There will also be some snow to much lower levels of the country at times within this period, and even parts of the south of the UK could see some early snow before we enter December this year.
“December in itself may then follow on with a rather mixed theme of colder and milder interludes before an increase in severity of some exceptional cold and snow in the final part of the month and for prolonged periods throughout January and into February due to prolonged blocking patterns that will refuse to shift.
“The overall situation has also worsened in terms of much colder than average sea surface temperatures (SST) in the North Atlantic.”
America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the all but unprecedented sequence of events threatens devastating impacts.
Deputy director Mike Halpert said: “A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter.
“While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favoured, El Niño is not the only player.
“Cold-air outbreaks and snow storms will likely occur at times this winter.
“However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal timescale.”
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Dr Nick Klingaman, climate scientist from the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, said because limited records make it difficult to predict the outcome of this year’s El Nino.
He said if things pan out as feared, the worst of the weather will hit towards the end of the season.
He said: “El Nino affects northern Europe and America because of changes to air currents in the tropics which then reach the extra-tropical Pacific and then the Atlantic.
“In the UK there is a tendency towards cooler winters but there is evidence showing that the impacts in early winter can differ from later on in the season.
“The impact of a small increase in ocean temperatures is really quite dramatic, a rise of half a degree is classified as an El Nino event, so far we have seen a rise of two and a half degrees.”
He added: “There are some signals that an El Nino event can cause an increased chance of colder conditions in the UK, usually at the end of winter.
“However historically the impacts can be variable so there is no consensus on exactly how it will play out.”
Met Office and BBC weather forecaster Tomasz Schafernaker said: “This time round El Nino could be the strongest in decades.
“In Europe sometimes winters end up much colder and drier and last much into spring. In 2010 the El Nino played a part in bringing huge amounts of snow to the UK.”
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