The pattern sometimes causes drought in some regions and floods in others, is seen as increasingly likely this year. Scientists are still debating the intensity of a potential El Nino, but Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology and the US Climate Prediction Center have warned of increased chances one will strike this year, Reuters reports.
A strong El Nino can wither crops in Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Africa when other parts of the globe such as the US Midwest and Brazil are drenched in rains.
Last month, the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization said there was an “enhanced possibility” of a weak El Nino by the middle of 2014.
The specter of El Nino has driven global cocoa prices to 2-1/2 year peaks this month on fears that dry weather in the key growing regions of Africa and Asia would stoke a global deficit.
El Nino could also crimp supply of minerals such as gold, nickel, tin, copper and coal if mines flood or logistics are disrupted.
In North America, crops in the Pacific Northwest could suffer as El Nino tends to cause rain to the area, with the major white wheat region already abnormally dry.
But El Nino doesn’t spell bad news for all farmers. It could bring rain to drought-hit California’s dairy farms and vineyards.
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