Indonesia may be an important place to watch for early signs that a coming El Niņo may be a strong one. Records dating to the 1980s indicate that during strong El Niņos, Indonesia's rainfall decreased about two months before other characteristics of El Niņo emerged in the ocean and atmosphere of the western Pacific. In 1997, for example, the monsoon season was delayed. Forest fires that started during the dry season raged out of control without the monsoon's quenching rains.
Smoke from fires in Indonesia can be seen in this satellite image. Click to view full image.