The difference between the two temperatures is currently the strongest in 60 years. The warmer waters cause higher-than-average rains in the western Indian Ocean region, leading to flooding, and drier conditions across South East Asia and Australia.
That heat has helped create the conditions for natural disasters like bushfires, droughts and floods – which have always happened in Australia – to be more frequent and more severe.
Vast areas of the nation are struggling through a second and third year of drought. According to the measurements for 2019 so far, the year has been Australia’s driest in over a century.
Australia’s conservative government has been criticised both at home and internationally for what’s seen as an inadequate climate record.
The country is one of the highest emitters of carbon pollution per capita, largely because it is still heavily reliant on coal-fired power. The UN has also said it is among the minority of G20 nations falling short on its emissions promises.