Australia sees drier, warmer winter as El Niño looms

SYDNEY Tue May 27, 2014 6:17pm EDT

SYDNEY May 28 (Reuters) - Australia's approaching winter is likely to be warmer and drier than normal in many regions as climate models point to a developing El Niño phenomenon, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Wednesday.

Global weather forecasters in recent months have increased the likelihood of El Niño, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, heightening uncertainty in global commodity and energy markets.

El Niño can cause major weather disruptions around the world, including droughts to Australia's arable southeast.

"A drier-than-normal winter is more likely for the southern mainland of Australia and parts of the tropical north," the Bureau said of the three months from June-August.

The odds of below-average rainfall were put at 60 percent or more in parts of southern Western Australia, most of South Australia, southern Queensland, New South Wales and northern Victoria.

Australian wheat farmers have gotten off to a strong start this season, with timely rains in the major wheat belts across the country.

Exports for the current season are seen at 19.1 million tonnes, which would rank Australia as the third-largest exporter, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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