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Climatologists say an El
Nino weather pattern is developing, increasing the chances of further more
drought and forest fires in Australia and Indonesia.
An El Nino pattern takes
place every two to seven years and is seen by scientists as part of a natural
It occurs when waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean heat up. The movement of
moist, warmer air away to the east leads to drier conditions in the western
Pacific, affecting much of the Asia-Pacific region.
In Australia, the eastern and most heavily populated parts of the continent are
likely to see below average rainfall and increases in daytime temperatures,
which would damage harvests.
Australia is the world's fourth-largest wheat exporter. There are concerns too
that the output of palm oil and rubber in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as in
Thailand, could be affected by dry conditions.
Andrew Watkins, a senior climatologist at Australia's Bureau of Meteorology
says the signs suggest that an El Nino is on its way.
At this stage, climate scientists say this may be a medium-strength El Nino,
but it could take months for it to be officially declared.
The last severe El Nino in 1997 and 1998 killed more than 2,000 people and
caused billions of dollars worth of damage to crops, infrastructure and mines
in Australia and Asia. In parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong and southern China,
it brought record rainfall that caused flooding.
An El Nino pattern can affect the monsoon in India, which is crucial to
successful harvests, and can also bring wetter weather to parts of the United
Translated by Buasawan Simmala