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El Niño storms could develop later in 2014, weather service says


(Reuters) — The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), issued on Thursday its strongest prediction so far that the infamous El Niño weather pattern could emerge in the Northern Hemisphere during summer or autumn.

CPC said in its monthly report it saw neutral El Niño conditions continuing through the Northern Hemisphere in spring 2014, but a 50% chance of the weather pattern developing during the summer or autumn.

This marks the first time College Park, Md.-based CPC has been on watch for El Niño since October 2012.

The El Niño phenomenon, the warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, can cause flooding and heavy rains in the United States and South America and can trigger drought conditions in Southeast Asia and Australia.

The forecast will be watched closely by the U.S. crude oil industry as El Niño reduces the chances of storms in the Gulf of Mexico that could topple platforms and rigs there.

The CPC’s latest outlook brings the forecaster in line with other global meteorologists that have raised their outlook for El Niño’s potential return.