Ocean temperatures

A graph depicts ocean temperatures along the equator at varying depths. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / March 6, 2014)

Australian meteorologists predict a 70 percent chance El Niño will develop this year, higher than the 50 percent odds U.S. forecasters called for last month.

"It is now likely (estimated at a greater than 70 percent chance) that an El Niño will develop during the southern hemisphere winter", from May-July, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday.

The National Centers for Environmental Prediction in the U.S. has said it expects the global climate pattern to develop around the same time, by summer's arrival here in the Northern Hemisphere.

El Niño is known best for snowy winters in this region but can cause other extremes around the world, sometimes catastrophically. It is characterized by warmer-than-average surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator.

Recent forecasts suggest this possible El Niño could be a strong one, perhaps the strongest since 1997-1998, according to Slate.com’s Eric Holthaus.

Reuters contributed to this report.