Sighs of relief as El Nino set to fizzle out

Last updated 08:28 29/09/2012

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The run-up to Christmas is set to be warmer than average, but forecasters have all but ruled out a potentially drought- inducing El Nino.

El Nino - a disturbance in tropical weather systems - can bring parching westerly winds to New Zealand over summer.

A lasting El Nino can bring drought, especially to the North Island's east coast.

The last significant El Nino to affect the east coast arrived in the late summer of 2010, causing very dry soil conditions until early autumn.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said farmers were wary of El Nino and confirmation the system would be weak or non- existent would "put a smile on their faces".

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) yesterday released its three-month outlook, showing an average or slightly above average seasonal forecast as the new year approached.

"It looks like El Nino may be very weak or even fizzle out - it's not going to affect us at least until early summer which is good news for farmers," Dr Brett Mullan, Niwa climate variability and change principal scientist, said.

Although it was possible there would be no El Nino, scientists were still monitoring a system in the Pacific Ocean that could trigger the effect.

On the back of a warmer than normal August Dr Mullan said the country had experienced an early spring with temperatures in August about "halfway to a normal September". The trend is set to continue over the coming three months with the lower North Island poised for a warmer than average spring. Fairfax NZ

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