“The US government forecaster has issued its most definitive report since first raising the El Niño alert three months ago, forecasting a weak phenomenon that will last until the Northern Hemisphere spring.“
Hmm… maybe. Time will tell what forecasters can’t but we are still not very good at predicting ENSO phases and events.
The latest assessment from the US Climate Prediction Center (CPC) could reduce the risk of a major drought in Asia, which produces some of the world’s major food staples – such as sugar cane and grains. But it is unlikely to offset mounting fears about global food supplies.
The much-feared El Niño will develop weakly this month after mostly neutral conditions in August and persist through February of next year, the CPC predicted in its monthly report. It had forecast weak-to-moderate conditions in August.
“At this point the most likely outcome is a weaker event,” Michelle L’Heureux, meteorologist and head of the CPC team that assesses the El Niño and La Niña phenomena, told Reuters.
A strong El Niño, essentially a warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, can cause widespread drought in Australia, parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and India, but also bring rains to other parts of the globe.
But based on the CPC’s outlook, this year could be on par with previous less-disruptive episodes in 2004-05 and 2006-07 and far off a repeat of 2009 when drought damaged crops across Asia.
“Supported by the model forecasts and the continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, the official forecast calls for the development of most likely a weak El Niño during September 2012, persisting through December-February 2012-13,” it said on Thursday.
El Niño is still likely to influence weather patterns, but it will be on a more moderate scale, Donald Keeney, agricultural meteorologist with the Cropcast weather service, told Reuters.
For instance, a gentler El Niño reduces the threat of full-scale drought in Southeast Asia, a key region in the production of palm oil.