Australia sees chance of El Nino at 70 percent, some signs ease

SYDNEY Tue Jun 17, 2014 1:54am EDT

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's weather bureau said on Tuesday the chance of an El Nino forming over the next few months remains at 70 percent, though the agency said some key indicators associated with the weather pattern had eased in recent weeks.

"We still believe an El Nino is likely," Andrew Watkins, Supervisor Climate Prediction at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said.

"The recent observations may suggest a later El Nino and it has perhaps reduced the chance of very strong El Nino like we saw in 1997/1998."

The bureau said ocean warming had leveled off, counter to typical observations prior to previous El Nino events when temperatures continued to rise.

The agency also said it had observed a recent positive value for the Southern Oscillation Index - a measure of large-scale fluctuations in air pressure occurring between the western and eastern tropical Pacific. A positive value is linked to abnormally cold ocean waters across the eastern tropical Pacific associated with an opposite La Nina weather event.

However, despite the easing of some indicators, the Australian bureau said it continued to expected an El Nino in the southern hemisphere's 2014 spring.

El Nino - a warming of sea temperatures in the Pacific - affects wind patterns and can trigger both floods and drought in different parts of the globe, hitting crops and food supply.

U.S. and Japanese weather forecasters also expect an El Nino to develop.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Ed Davies)

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