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La Nina May Be At Its Peak, Says Australia's Weather Bureau

Date: 22-Dec-10
Country: AUSTRALIA
Author: Michael Perry

The strongest La Nina weather event in nearly half a century, resulting in heavy rains and flooding which has damaged crops and flooded mines in Australia and Asia, may be at its peak, the Australian weather bureau said.

"Long-range models surveyed by the bureau suggest that this La Nina event may be at its peak and will persist through the southern hemisphere summer," the Bureau of Meteorology said in its weekly tropical climate note on Tuesday.

"La Nina conditions continue to dominate across the tropical Pacific. All climate indicators...remain above La Nina thresholds," it said.

Normal seasonal output patterns for wheat, rubber, coffee, soy and palm oil, among others, have been upended in Australia and Asia due to heavier-than-normal rains.

Wet weather in key rubber hubs of Thailand and Indonesia has propelled prices of tire-grade rubber more than 30 percent higher since the weather anomaly emerged, while palm oil gained by more than half. Coffee harvests have been delayed in Indonesia and Vietnam.

Australia has cut its sugar export forecast by a quarter and downgraded expectations of the amount of high-quality wheat available for export.

La Nina-driven wet weather has also impacted iron ore and coal mining operations in Indonesia and Australia, where heavy rains have flooded mines and interrupted transport, also impacting China which is the top customer.

"The 2010 event has contributed to north Australia's wettest September-November period on record," said the weather bureau, adding Australia's monsoon season had arrived two weeks earlier than normal.

The bureau said the risk of La Nina-fueled cyclones developing off Australia's east and west coasts remained at a "moderate level."

Cyclones force Australia each year to temporarily shut down its offshore oil and gas operations off the northwest coast and sometimes flood inland iron ore mining areas.

Australia's cyclone season is between November and April, but it is yet to experience the first storm of the season.

(Editing by Balazs Koranyi)

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