Bloomberg News

La Nina Weather Pattern ‘Is Dead,’ World’s Forecasters Say

March 27, 2012

The 2011-2012 La Nina that parched Argentina and Brazil and brought rains to Southeast Asia has ended, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, adding to assessments from Indonesia to Britain that the event has passed.

So-called key ocean and atmospheric indicators have returned to neutral, and those conditions may persist until at least early winter in the country, the Australian bureau said in a statement today. The event peaked in January, the bureau said.

The patterns influence weather worldwide, with this year’s event helping to drive soybeans to the highest level in six months as drought parched crops in South America, curbing yields. The current La Nina has peaked and may start to fade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last month.

“If we get a return back to normal conditions, we can probably expect a rebound back to trend, or at least closer to trend, in South America,” Victor Thianpiriya, an analyst at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., said by phone.

A La Nina, indicated by a cooling of surface water in the Pacific Ocean, occurs on average every three to five years and usually lasts nine to 12 months, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said. It sometimes occurs in back-to-back years, as happened this year and last. Its reverse is known as an El Nino, which can parch parts of Asia.

‘La Nina Is Dead’

“We would concur that La Nina is dead,” Jim Dale, senior risk meteorologist at British Weather Services, which provides weather-related risk analysis, said by e-mail today. “El Nino is a slowly rising possibility, but it normally takes more than one year from the death of his sister. So, for now, it’s a case of neutral zone, and very much ‘normal’ climate features.”

Soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade have rallied 15 percent this year and reached $13.885 a bushel yesterday, the highest level since September. The May-delivery contract traded 0.5 percent higher at $13.87 at 5:15 p.m. in Singapore.

“La Nina started to weaken from late 2011, and this month would be the end of the weather pattern,” Endro Santoso, head of climate information at Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, said from Jakarta today. “We will experience normal weather from April until September. There won’t be any effect from La Nina or El Nino during the period.”

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, which competes with soybean oil for use in foods and fuels. Palm oil on the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange reached 3,497 ringgit ($1,144) a metric ton today, the highest level in a year.

Drought-Induced Losses

Palm oil may gain to 4,000 ringgit by June, Dorab Mistry, director at Godrej International Ltd., said in a speech in Beijing today, reiterating earlier forecasts for a rally. The La Nina-induced drought in southern Brazil has reduced the soybean crop in some districts to just half of its potential, he said.

The La Nina was “going away,” Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the USDA, said during a presentation at the department’s annual forum in Arlington, Virginia last month. The absence of La Nina may curb rainfall and bring drought conditions to the northern U.S. Great Plains, Rippey said.

“The likelihood of a third, successive La Nina remains low,” said Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction services at the Australian bureau. “Approximately 70 percent of La Nina events that have returned for a second year are followed by neutral or El Nino conditions.”

To contact the reporter for this story: Phoebe Sedgman in Melbourne at psedgman2@bloomberg.net; Luzi Ann Javier in Singapore at ljavier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jake Lloyd- Smith at jlloydsmith@bloomberg.net


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