The United States space agency NASA has warned that the effects of the current El Nino weather phenomenon could be as bad as those of 1998, the strongest on record.
That El Nino played havoc with world weather systems and was blamed for several extreme weather events.
In the southern hemisphere countries have been experiencing heatwaves and Australia has experience bushfires much earlier in the summer than usual, along with widespread flooding in other parts of the country.
The phenomenon sees warm waters of the central Pacific expand eastwards towards North and South America.
El Nino is a naturally occurring weather episode that happens every two to seven years.
It usually peaks late in the calendar year, although the effects can persist well into the following year and last up to 12 months.
NASA warns the current El Nino “shows no signs of waning”, based on the latest satellite image of the Pacific Ocean.
It bears “a striking resemblance” to one from December 1997, the agency says, “the signature of a big and powerful El Nino”.
This year’s El Nino has been linked to the worst floods seen in 50 years in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
The floods there have forced more than 150,000 people from their homes – more than 100,000 of them in the Paraguayan capital alone.
Australia has experienced a much earlier than usual outbreak of serious bushfires which have destroyed hundreds of homes and been accompanied by intense heatwaves with temperatures into the high 40 degrees Celsius.
El Nino has also been cited as a factor in the floods that have hit northern parts of the United Kingdom, forcing thousands from their homes and leaving thousands more without power.
One weather buoy near the North Pole has measured a temperature above freezing, almost unheard of at this time of year, when the normal figure is about -25°C.
Average temperatures on Christmas Day in France were the second highest on record, just below those of 1997.
Desperation in one French ski resort at the lack of snow led to 100 tonnes of snow being airlifted in by helicopter.
In Italy, experts say the unusually calm and dry weather has exacerbated pollution over the cities of Milan and Rome.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has stressed that El Nino is not the only factor driving global climate patterns but said the implications of the weather systems in a warmer world are uncertain.
“This naturally occurring El Nino event and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways which we have never before experienced, ” WMO secretary general Michael Jarraud said last month.
“Even before the onset of El Nino, global average surface temperatures had reached new records. El Nino is turning up the heat even further,” he said.