June 11, 2012 / 6:20 AM / 7 years ago

El Nino possible but normal conditions more likely: Japanese agency

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s weather bureau said on Monday its climate models indicate the possible emergence of the El Nino weather pattern, often linked to heavy rainfall and droughts, in the second half of this year but normal conditions are more likely.

The Japan Meteorological Agency used the same language in its monthly assessment of the outlook to December for El Nino that it used in May, when it said it was highly likely that normal weather patterns would prevail in Asia through to November this year.

The last severe El Nino was in 1998, when it caused more than 2,000 deaths and wrought billions of dollars in damage to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and other parts of Asia.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said on June 7 that there is a 50 percent chance the El Nino weather pattern may strike later this year.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said last month that models it tracks indicate a possible return of El Nino in the second half of the year.

The chief of India’s state-run weather office has said El Nino conditions are likely to emerge over the Pacific Ocean by mid-August.

The last El Nino was recorded in 2009/10, though it was classified as weak to moderate.

El Nino is linked to extreme weather that can curtail production of crops and other commodities on a global scale.

Analysts have highlighted soybeans, palm oil and sugar as crops that could be drastically hit by a return of El Nino, affecting many Asian-Pacific economies.

Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm oil producer, could see lower output in 2013 if the El Nino results in poor rainfall. China, a key buyer of overseas corn in recent years, could be forced to step up imports.

Australian wheat production could also be hit if the country experiences lower-than-average rainfall.

Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Michael Watson

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