El Nino to bring more tropical cyclones this season

A house is seen as strong waves caused by Cyclone Evan wash a beach in Queen Elizabeth Drive, in Suva in this handout picture taken December 17, 2012. More than 3,500 people evacuated to emergency shelters in Fiji as the biggest cyclone in 20 years swept across the Pacific island nation on Monday, three days after the storm killed four people and destroyed thousands of homes in nearby Samoa. Tourist resorts on many of Fiji's palm-fringed islands have been evacuated and authorities warned people to remain in shelter as Tropical Cyclone Evan battered the country, blowing over trees and destroying houses. REUTERS/Fiji Ministry of Information/Handout (FIJI - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTR3BO5K

New Zealand and the Southwest Pacific are being warned to expect more severe tropical cyclones this season, all thanks to El Nino.

The season runs from November through to April 2016, and over the past 30 years the average number of Southwest Pacific tropical cyclones has been 12.4.

Of those that developed into Category 1 or stronger during that 30-year period, there were 10.4 in the Southwest Pacific basin.

But this year meteorologists are warning that number will increase, and they're expecting 11 to 13 Category 1 or stronger storms, including at least six severe Category 3 or higher cyclones.

They warn that at least four of those storms could also reach Category 4 strength, bringing hurricane-force winds of more than 150km/h.

Pacific Island countries lying close to the International Date Line are expected to bear the brunt of the cyclones.

NIWA scientists say New Zealand experiences at least one ex-tropical cyclone passing within 550km of the country each year on average, but this year's risk is slightly higher than normal.

International forecasters believe this year's El Nino event will be one of the strongest in 60 years, and all Pacific nations should be prepared.

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