El Nino to be short, weak, N.Z. scientists predict

El Nino weather conditions, which can bring droughts to parts of Asia and affect crops, have emerged but will likely be weak and shortlived, New Zealand scientists said on Tuesday.

El Nino is a warming of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years and can have far-ranging effects around the globe, particularly on food output.

"Borderline El Nino conditions are present in the tropical Pacific, and a weak short-lived El Nino is predicted for the spring and summer periods," the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere said in its latest climate outlook.

It said sea surface temperatures have risen to above accepted El Nino levels, but other indicators such as the strength of trade winds are still close to normal.

The El Nino would likely "decay" in the first quarter of 2013, it added.

An El Nino typically brings below-average rainfall to the Asia-Pacific region, threatening the yields of agricultural crops, while parts of Latin America and the continental United States may be hit by weather that is wetter than average.

The U.S. grain belt has suffered its worst drought in more than 50 years, which has seen corn and soybean prices hitting record highs.

Weather scientists in Australia and Japan this month have said El Nino conditions are developing.

But last week India’s farm secretary said the country’s monsoon season was unlikely to be influenced by El Nino.

Current indications are that most of New Zealand, whose economy is driven by agriculture, would have normal weather conditions through November, the Institute said.

However, it added there might be less rainfall than average in the eastern South Island, home to hydropower stations supplying more than two-thirds of the country’s power.

— Reporting for Reuters by Gyles Beckford.

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