El Nino Is So Last Year, Here Comes La Nina to Bring Havoc

El Niño Is Coming Back: Here's What You Need to Know
  • Indonesia distributes water pumps, predicts La Nina in October
  • Australian forecaster warns La Nina may emerge in second half

As the effects of the most severe El Nino in almost 20 years still reverberate globally, parts of the world are already preparing for La Nina.

Indonesia is set to distribute water pumps to farmers and is assessing its rice stockpiles in anticipation of the weather event materializing in October, Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman told reporters in Jakarta on Wednesday. La Nina, sometimes thought of as El Nino’s opposite, typically brings more rainfall to the region, threatening crops with flooding and delaying harvests. Australia says El Nino has peaked and there’s a chance of its counterpart occurring in the second half of the year.

El Nino has hampered cocoa crops in Ivory Coast, curbed the monsoon in India and forced the Philippines to import more rice. Indonesia deployed planes last year for artificial rain to help alleviate drought conditions that restricted palm oil output and exacerbated forest fires that engulfed the region in haze. Based on the 26 El Nino events since 1900, about 50 percent have been followed by a neutral year with 40 percent by La Nina, Australia’s weather bureau said Tuesday.

Smoke rises from a forest fire in South Sumatra, Indonesia.
Smoke rises from a forest fire in South Sumatra, Indonesia.
Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

“We’ll anticipate early, like we did on drought,” Sulaiman said.

Indonesia’s palm oil output may stagnate or fall about 3 percent this year, according to Bayu Krisnamurthi, the head of the government-appointed Indonesia Estate Crop Fund for Palmoil. Supply concerns helped palm oil cap its best year since 2010, while sugar posted its first annual gain in five years.

El Nino is a warming in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, while La Nina is a cooling of the waters. Each can impact agricultural markets as farmers contend with too much or too little rain. A large part of the agricultural U.S. tends to dry out during La Nina events, while parts of Australia can be wetter than normal.

The previous La Nina began in 2010 and endured into 2012. Conditions typically last between 9 months and 12 months, while some episodes may persist for as long as two years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Both La Nina and El Nino tend to peak during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

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