• Forecasters say 55 to 60 percent chance a La Nina will happen
  • La Nina may bring a cooler U.S. winter boosting gas demand

The U.S. maintained the odds that a weak La Nina, which can dry up crops in Brazil and promote Atlantic hurricanes, could form in the next three months across the equatorial Pacific.

Forecasters said there is a 55 to 60 percent chance La Nina, a cooling of the Pacific coupled with changes in the atmosphere, will form, the Climate Prediction Center, part of the National Weather Service, said in a report Thursday. The agency, which issued the same odds last month, is maintaining a La Nina watch.

Past La Ninas have moved agricultural and energy markets. The event has led to heavy rains in Malaysia that make it difficult to harvest palm oil crops, droughts in southern Brazil, a major soybean producer, and cooler winters in parts of the U.S. boosting natural gas demand.

“The forecaster consensus favors La Nina onset during the August-October season, and predicts a weak event if La Nina forms,” the center said in a statement.

The most immediate impact could be on the number of tropical storms and hurricanes that form in the Atlantic. While La Nina is focused in the Pacific, it can affect global weather patterns potentially reducing wind shear in the Atlantic. Shear, when winds blow at different directions or speeds at varying altitudes, can rip apart tropical systems, weakening them or preventing them from forming at all.

Last week, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology also maintained the La Nina watch it issued earlier this year. The agency said there is a 50 percent chance a La Nina could form by year’s end and if it does, it will be weak.

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