Bloomberg News

El Nino May Widen Indian Rain Deficit as U.S. Flood Risk Gains

July 09, 2012

A moderate El Nino may widen a monsoon deficit in India, while bringing excessive rains to the driest parts of the U.S., threatening floods in a region that’s been hit by a heat wave, according to a United Nations adviser.

“Within a month or so, we’ll probably see a major turnaround,” Roger Stone, a program manager at the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, said in an interview in Singapore. Grains in India are at risk as the deficit will persist from August through to February, said Stone, who’s advised the UN agency since 1996 and has been tracking weather since 1972.

El Ninos, caused by a warming of the Pacific Ocean, can parch parts of Asia while bringing cooler weather to the U.S. A heat wave in the U.S. Midwest is threatening the corn crop in the world’s largest exporter and producer, driving prices in Chicago to the highest level since September. Excessive rains may also affect parts of Russia, Stone said on July 6.

“The El Nino is developing for 2012, but I think it may still take some time to exert significant positive effects on the U.S. corn crop,” said Michael Ferrari, director of climate informatics at Falls Church, Virgina-based CSC, which tracks weather patterns using satellite data. “The crop really needs a good moisture pattern.”

Corn advanced to $7.1625 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade today, extending last week’s 9.2 percent rally. Wheat, trading at $8.23 a bushel, touched the highest level since April 2011 on July 5. Soybeans have gained 27 percent this year.

Flood Risk

While wet weather in the driest areas of the U.S., China, Europe and former Soviet Union may improve soil moisture, “too much rain, too soon, could just run off,” Stone said. In Krasnodar, Russia’s biggest wheat-exporting region, heavy rains caused floods over the weekend, state television Rossiya 24 said.

Signs of a shift to El Nino are already showing. The monthly Southern Oscillation Index was at minus 10.4 in June, and the moving 30-day reading declined to minus 11.8 as of July 1, “within the values indicative of an El Nino,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said July 3. Sustained readings of minus 8 may indicate an El Nino event, it said.

Sea-surface temperatures, another indicator, showed increasing anomalies evident in the eastern Pacific in the past 30 days, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said July 2. The above-average sea-surface temperatures expanded westward into the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: 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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