Oct 4 The U.S. national weather forecaster still
expects the much-feared El Niño phenomenon, which can wreak
havoc on global weather, to remain weak into the Northern
Hemisphere winter, even after its development slowed last month.
In its monthly assessment, the Climate Prediction Center
(CPC) said on Thursday it is still not clear whether a fully
fledged El Niño would emerge, although there is a "possibility"
it will strengthen over the next few months.
The report further reduces the risk of a major drought in
Asia, which produces some of the world's major food staples,
such as sugar cane and grains. The CPC first raised its El Niño
alert four months ago.
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.
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.
"During September, the trend towards El Niño slowed in
several key oceanic and atmospheric indicators.... The
atmosphere and ocean indicate borderline ... neutral/weak El
Niño conditions," it said.
Last month, the CPC forecast the phenomenon would develop
weakly in September and persist through February of next year.
In Thursday's update, it did not give an estimate for how long
the conditions may last.