By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Weather models show an El Nino is likely to emerge this year, with at least a 70 percent chance the weather pattern could arrive as early as June, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said on Tuesday.
El Nino, or a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, can prompt drought in Southeast Asia and Australia and heavy rains in South America, hitting production of food such as rice, wheat and sugar.
"The chances of El Nino occurring in 2015 have increased," the Australian weather bureau said. "Ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific continue to be warmer than average, trade winds remain weaker than normal, and all models surveyed suggest further ocean warming will occur," it added.
Tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures are now just shy of El Nino levels, the BOM said.
Should an El Nino emerge, the system would likely bring below-average late winter and spring rainfall over eastern Australia and above-average daytime temperatures over the southern half of Australia.
This would hurt the wheat crop in Australia, the world's fourth-biggest exporter of the grain.
Wheat production is expected to total 24.39 million tonnes in the 2015/16 season starting July 1, Australia's chief commodity forecaster said this month, up 3 percent from this year's 23.61 million tonnes.
Another season of poor wheat production from Australian east coast farmers will extend headwinds for GrainCorp Ltd, the country's largest bulk grain handler. [ID:nL4N0W103L]
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)