The U.S. national weather forecaster reiterated its prediction that the much-feared El Niño phenomenon is unlikely to affect the Northern Hemisphere weather this spring.
In its monthly report on Thursday, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said conditions will remain neutral for the next few months, further reducing the chances of a drought in Asia and flooding in South America.
The report also raised the possibility that the pattern that can wreak havoc on weather would not reappear before the summer, but said a forecast so far ahead covering the April to June period may not be accurate.
El Niño leads to a heating of Pacific waters, triggering drought in Southeast Asia and Australia, which produce some of the world's major food staples, such as sugar cane and grains. It can also cause flooding in South America.
For the United States, El Niño can bring higher than average winter precipitation to the Southwest, less wintry weather across the North as well as stronger winter storms in California and increased storminess across the southern states.
The CPC is part of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
(Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)