El Niño Likely Coming Early This Year

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The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) of the National Weather Service is forecasting the early formation of the El Niño weather pattern in the eastern Pacific Ocean. According to the CPC, there is a 50% chance that El Niño conditions will develop early in the second half of 2012.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the El Niño conditions have a 50-50 chance of forming between July and September and continuing into next year. Between October and December the odds rise to 65% in favor of the El Niño pattern.

El Niño typically means a warmer, drier winter in the northern half of the US, while the southern half of the US can look forward to a milder hurricane season and above average rainfall. Hotter, drier weather could have a serious impact on crops, while wetter weather in the south could ease drought conditions in many states.

If the CPC’s forecast is correct, heavy rains could begin earlier than usual in South America, threatening crops in Brazil and Argentina.

With global food stockpiles at or near five-year lows, the El Niño threat to crops could well push commodity prices up on corn, wheat, soybeans, and other grains. If the damage due to hot, dry weather to this year’s US harvest turns out to be as severe as predicted, stockpiles will dwindle even more, raising the spectre of food shortages well into next year and the year after.

The CPC’s El Niño news is available here.

Paul Ausick