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Pacific Warming Continues: Australia Weather Bureau

Date: 24-Dec-09
Country: AUSTRALIA
Author: Jonathan Standing

SYDNEY - Pacific Ocean temperatures remained at levels typical of a drought-bringing El Nino weather pattern, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on Wednesday.

The bureau said in its latest fortnightly report that central Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are now at their warmest level since the El Nino of 1997-98, exceeding temperatures observed in both the 2002-03 and 2006-07 events.

"Similarly, cloudiness and rainfall near the equator remains enhanced, while eastern Australian rainfall remains low; all typical of a mature El Nino event," the bureau said.

An El Nino, which means "little boy" in Spanish, is driven by an abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean, and can create havoc in weather patterns across the Asia-Pacific region.

The last severe El Nino in 1998 killed more than 2,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damages to crops, infrastructure and mines in Australia and Asia.

The weather bureau said earlier this week that Australia could face a dry start for its summer crops as the El Nino pattern affects rainfall, raising the possibility of lower harvests of sorghum, sugar and cotton.

(Editing by Michael Perry)

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