* El Nino likely to arrive in August or September
* Phenomenon will put added strain on global food supplies
NEW YORK, August 9 The U.S. government
forecaster warned on Thursday that the feared El Nino
phenomenon, which can affect global weather, is almost certain
to occur over the next two months, potentially adding strain to
global food supplies.
El Nino conditions will likely arrive in August or September
and lead to weak-to-moderate weather conditions over the
Northern Hemisphere's autumn and winter, the U.S. Climate
Prediction Center (CPC) said in its monthly report.
This is the strongest prediction yet by the CPC, part of the
National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), after it
issued its first El Nino watch in June, warning the phenomenon
could materialize in the second half of the year.
"Nearly all of the dynamical models favor the onset of El
Nino beginning in July-September 2012," the U.S. Climate
Prediction Center (CPC) said in its monthly update.
"There is increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El
Nino during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012/13," it
Its arrival, warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific
Ocean, raises the chances of favorable planting conditions in
South America but could roil farmers in Asia and Africa where it
could deprive crucial harvests of rain.
Its effects will be closely watched in India, where the slow
development of vital monsoon rains have already hampered the
planting of summer crops, such as rice, oilseeds and cotton, and
weather forecasters have already warned of the first drought in
three years. The country is the world's No. 2 sugar producer.
Concerns are also mounting in the cocoa market that El
Nino-affected weather could damage harvests in Ivory Coast and
Ghana, the world's largest bean producers.
Cocoa prices jumped to nine-month highs on Thursday on ideas
that a lack of rain could further curb prospects for the crop's
tail. Analysts have warned the market could tip into deficit.
Wetter weather in South America may come as a relief to
farmers in Brazil and Argentina as crop planting starts in
September, particularly after the dry spell caused by El Nino's
opposite number, La Nina, last season.
Heavy rains though can damage crops. Brazil is the world's
biggest producer of sugar, coffee and soybeans. Argentina is a
major soybean exporter.
Keenly watched by the U.S. oil industry, the phenomenon may
reduce the chances of storms forming in the Atlantic basin
towards the end of the hurricane season that runs to Nov. 30.
In a separate report on Thursday, the weather agency
predicted a slightly more active 2012 Atlantic hurricane season,
but said warming seas and the arrival of El Nino would bring
near-normal to above-normal storm activity.
(Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)