September 10, 2009 / 1:50 PM / 8 years ago

NOAA sees El Nino strengthening through 2009

<p>Raindrops are seen on a window pane near cranes at the downtown area of Miami June 13, 2007.Carlos Barria</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday the El Nino weather anomaly should strengthen this fall and through the 2009/10 northern hemisphere winter.

"A majority of the model forecasts ... suggest El Nino will reach at least moderate strength during the northern hemisphere fall," it stated in its monthly update.

The CPC is the chief office in the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration tracking El Nino.

El Nino, 'little boy' in Spanish, is an abnormal warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean which can wreak havoc on weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

It was named after the Christ child when it was first observed around Christmas by anchovy fishermen in Latin America in the 19th century.

Despite its current weak state, El Nino has apparently affected the annual Atlantic hurricane season. The weather pattern normally allows wind shear to disrupt storm formation in the Atlantic basin and help drive storms away from land.

Last month, NOAA cut its 2009 storm forecast to between seven and 11 storms, with three to six becoming hurricanes, pointing to El Nino as a prime reason for the reduction in the number of storms seen developing in 2009.

In May, NOAA had predicted 2009 will see nine to 14 storms, with four to seven becoming hurricanes.

"El Nino can help to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean," the CPC said.

Many storms have barely made landfall in the United States. Hurricane Fred powered up to a Category 3 storm but it churned far away in the Eastern Atlantic. And tropical storm Bill did a sharp turn away from North America and headed for Europe.

El Nino has also been linked to a weak monsoon in India, which hit the sugar cane crop and caused world sugar prices to spike to their highest since the early 1980s.

CPC said in its report there are even some computer weather forecast models that indicate "a strong El Nino during the fall and winter."

But, it added, "Current observations and trends indicate that El Nino will most likely peak at moderate strength."

The CPC said the weather will cause continued dry weather in Indonesia, the world's No. 3 producer of cocoa, which is the primary ingredient in chocolate and confectionary bars.

Reporting by Rene Pastor; Editing by John Picinich

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