Pacific region on brink of El Nino: NZ weather scientists

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 01, 2012 12:11 AM
Pacific region on brink of El Nino: NZ weather scientists

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The Pacific region is set to experience in the next three months an El Nino weather pattern, which can bring dry weather and affect crops, New Zealand scientists said on Wednesday.

Sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are warming, and tropical sea temperatures are near El Nino levels.

"Conditions in the tropical Pacific are currently on the brink of El Nino, and it is likely El Nino will develop during the early spring period," the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) said in its latest climate outlook.

"The majority of climate models which NIWA monitors predict that the El Niño threshold will likely be exceeded during the August to October period."

The El Nino typically brings rainfall below the average to the Asia-Pacific region, threatening the yields of agricultural crops, while parts of Latin America and the continental United States may be hit by weather that is wetter than average.

The U.S. grain belt is now suffering its worst drought in 56 years, which carried corn and soybean prices to record highs last month on expectations of lower production.

Weather scientists in Australia and Japan last month warned of developing El Nino conditions.

NIWA said the Southern Oscillation, an indicator of changing weather patterns, was close to zero last month, which signaled El Niño conditions were not yet fully in place.

Current indications are that most of New Zealand, whose economy is driven by agriculture, would have normal weather conditions through to October, it said.

However, it added, there might be less rainfall than average in the eastern South Island, home to hydropower stations supplying more than two-thirds of the country's power.

A La Nina pattern of cool water in the equatorial Pacific, which normally brings colder, wetter conditions to parts of the continental United States, ended this year, and there had been talk of an El Nino pattern developing before year's end.

(Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)