US officials narrowed the odds on an El Nino kicking in as
some private meteorologists said that the impact of the weather event may
already be being felt, including in heavy US rains.
The Climate Prediction Center, part of the Maryland-based National
Weather Service, raised to 70%, from 65%, its estimate of the likelihood of an
El Nino starting during the northern hemisphere summer.
The chances are 80% of the weather pattern - linked to
warmer Pacific water temperatures, and a range of climatic effects from
Australia to Brazil – having started by the autumn or winter.
"Above-average sea surface temperatures expanded over the
equatorial Pacific Ocean during May," the Climate Prediction Center said,
adding that "all of the Niño indices increased during the month".
Assuming the El Niño forms, "forecasters… slightly favour a
moderate-strength event during the Northern Hemisphere fall or winter", the
centre added, if noting "significant uncertainty" over this forecast.
'Growing El Niño
The forecast puts the CPC in line with Australia's Bureau of
Meteorology, which on Tuesday restated the chance of an El Nino as being at
Official meteorologists in the likes of Colombia, India and
Japan have also cautioned over the chance of the weather pattern returning this
Some private forecasters believe there are signs that the impact
of the weather pattern may already be being felt, with Gail Martell at Martell
Crop Projections saying that storms in the US this week "may be linked to a
growing El Niño influence".
Some central Plains and western Corn Belt crops have
sustained damage from hail storms this week, although the precipitation has
brought relief to drought hit areas of the Plains.
'Typical for an El
"Sudden heavy rainfall in Texas and Oklahoma" in late May,
of 4-5 inches, "was a symptom of a growing El Niño influence," Ms Martell said,
noting that Plains weather is sensitive to the weather pattern, typically becoming
"The Midwest also is influence by the El Niño receiving
heavy rain, though east of the Mississippi River, summer growing conditions
often become very dry."
At weather service WxRisk.com, David Tolleris, noting that
weather models show "very wet and very cool" conditions for the second half of
June, said that "this is typical for an El Nino in the early summer".
While the summer typically bring concerns over hot weather,
which can set back corn pollination, this time "the issue may end up being growing
degree days", in essence a measure of the natural energy that plants receive,
Mr Tolleris said, "if, if this wet, cool pattern holds into August-September".
'Yields are usually
Indeed, the prospect of an El Nino, and its timing, are of great
interest to agricultural commodity investors, given the potential impact on yields.
For instance, the southern Plains rains, while in time to
help cotton seedlings, are viewed as largely too late to boost prospects for
the hard red winter wheat crop grown in the region.
Separately, Informa Economics on Thursday cut its forecast
for this year's US winter wheat harvest by 100m bushels to 1.396bn bushels , including a forecast of 744m bushels for the hard red winter wheat crop.
However, cooler Midwest temperatures are viewed as a boost
to prospects for US corn, with its later growing season, with research by
Societe Generale, for instance, noting that "corn yields are usually improved
in an El Nino".
Also in the US, soybean harvest prospects are typically improved
by an El Nino, "with cooler and damper conditions supporting yields", the bank
Meanwhile, the weather pattern's role in bringing dryness to
some parts of Brazil can, initially, pressure prices too, in improving transport
and helping to "keep the global trade pipeline supplied".
"However, continued warm, dry weather in Brazil in
December-February can have adverse effects on the following crop," prompting
upward pressure on soybean values.
Elsewhere, in the oilseeds complex, palm oil prices are
often supported by El Ninos, "particularly strong events", which "bring dry
weather to the Pacific Rim, threatening palm oil crop conditions in countries
such as Indonesia and Malaysia", SocGen said.
vulnerable to El Nino'
Indeed, Standard Chartered has recommended an investment of
going short Chicago's January 2015 soyoil contract, while going long on January
palm oil, based on the idea that the weather pattern tends to support soybean
production, but undermine palm output.
However, StanChart did voice concerns about the potential
hit to India's soybean harvest from an El Nino, which often weakens the
monsoon, noting that the 2009 event "slashed yields by around 10%" thanks to
The weather pattern is also "bad news for Australia's wheat
yields", the bank said, noting that southern and eastern areas of the country "are
particularly vulnerable to El Nino conditions", typically manifested in undue dryness.
Meanwhile in sugar, "Brazil's cane yields could be dealt a
double blow by an El Niño event, similar to 2010, due to low rainfall at the
start of the cultivation period and excessive precipitation during the harvest
period," StanChart analyst Abah Ofon said.
With the El Nino typically causing dryness in Thailand, the
second ranked exporting country, the bank has forecast a small world production
shortfall in 2014-15.