El Nino phenomenon: Impacts predicted for late 2012

Three-dimensonal representation of the fully developed 1997 El Niño
Credit: ESA

Climate indicators for an El Nino event in the western Pacific have eased slightly in the past fortnight, but meteorologists still expect the weather pattern in late 2012. The pattern typically brings below average rainfall for the Asia Pacific region, threatening the yields of agricultural crops, while America is often hit by wetter than average weather. El Nino indicators such as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), sea surface temperatures and trade winds have eased over the past two weeks, but are still close to El Nino thresholds, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on 17 July 2012. "This is a bit of a short-term blip, which is not unexpected," said Andrew Watkins, manager climate models for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. "We have to wait to see how long it takes for this weather event to pass, but we would expect things to continue around the weather threshold." The El Nino weather phenomenon could form as early as the third quarter of 2012, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said on July 6. Japan's weather bureau, in its monthly assessment, said its model was forecasting a high chance of an El Nino developing between June and August.

Three years ago, an El Nino event slowed development of India's vital monsoon rains, sparking a rally in sugar prices to 30-year highs as the No. 2 producer in the world suffered a poor cane crop. The formation of an El Nino over the western Pacific means La Nina conditions over the eastern Pacific, bringing unwanted rains and damaging crops in agricultural powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina./p>