August 10, 2006

Forecasters say 50-50 chance weak El Nino will develop

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is a 50 percent chance a weak
El Nino will develop this year, U.S. government weather
forecasters said on Thursday, but if the weather abnormality
reappears it will be too late to affect the Atlantic hurricane

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said a
return of El Nino would bring wetter-than-average weather to
portions of the Gulf Coast and southeastern U.S., and
warmer-than-average temperatures to the West, northern Great
Plains and upper Midwest between January and March 2007.

"Based on recent trends, there is a 50 percent chance that
weak El Nino conditions will develop late this year and
continue through early 2007," said Vernon Kousky, a NOAA
scientist who also monitors La Nina, the opposite of El Nino.

El Nino, which is Spanish for "the little boy," is an
abnormal warming of water in the Pacific Ocean every three or
so years that can wreak havoc with global weather patterns.

Earlier this week, NOAA said the Atlantic hurricane season
would be slightly less intense this year than first predicted
with up to nine hurricanes expected to form, but it warned the
most dangerous part of the season was still to come.

There have only been three named storms in the Atlantic
this year, but none of them have become hurricanes.

Unlike a year ago, the absence of La Nina, an unusual
cooling of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures, has helped
reduce the number of early season storms that developed in June
and July.