NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. government weather forecaster on Thursday said El Nino conditions would gradually weaken through the northern hemisphere spring after peaking in late fall or early winter.
The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center said the likelihood that El Nino conditions would persist through the northern hemisphere winter was about 95 percent, up from a more than 90 percent chance in last month's forecast.
There has been a growing consensus among forecasters for a strong El Nino, the warming of Pacific sea-surface temperatures. The World Meteorological Organization said last week that this year's phenomenon could be the strongest on record and was likely to peak between October and January.
The weather pattern can roil crops and commodities prices. Japan's weather bureau said earlier on Thursday that there was a strong possibility that El Nino would stretch into the winter.
El Nino conditions would probably contribute to a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season and to above-normal seasons in both the central and Eastern Pacific hurricane basins, the CPC said.
It added that across the contiguous United States, the effects of El Nino were likely to remain minimal during the early northern hemisphere autumn and increase into the late fall and winter.
The CPC said this month that "all models surveyed" predicted that El Nino would last into the northern hemisphere spring, up from an 80 percent chance it estimated last month.
The El Nino phenomenon would mean increased likelihood of rain for parched areas of drought-stricken California later in the fall, although the Pacific Northwest States of Oregon and Washington would probably not get much relief.
To read the full CPC report, click: http://1.usa.gov/1l5XUb3
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn)