Weak El Nino conditions developing in Pacific likely to mean warmer winter for West

Thursday, September 14th 2006, 1:15 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Weak El Nino conditions have developed in the Pacific Ocean, so this winter will likely be warmer in the West, rainier along the Gulf Coast and drier in the Ohio Valley and Pacific Northwest, federal scientists say.

The same conditions are also helping make this Atlantic hurricane season slower than originally predicted, said scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.

El Nino is a warming of the water in the tropical Pacific that is associated with changes in air pressure and the movement of high-level winds that can affect weather worldwide. The conditions are likely continue into early next year, and scientists said there is potential for them to strengthen.

Drier-than-average conditions already exist in Indonesia, Malaysia and most of the Philippines, generally the first areas to feel the effects of El Nino, NOAA scientists said Wednesday. Western and central Canada can also expect higher-than-average temperatures going into winter.

El Nino inhibits hurricanes by increasing crosswinds over the Caribbean. That vertical wind shear can rip storms apart or even stop them from forming. But the scientists warned that the impact of El Nino on hurricanes have been small so far.

``We are still in the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season, and conditions remain generally conducive for hurricane formation,'' said Gerry Bell, the NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.

The season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.