Fading Chances of El Nino Leave Traders in Limbo

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  • Higher chances of La Nina which could bring cold to Northeast
  • ‘Overall we are strongly favoring neutral’: forecaster

The Coming Storm of Climate Change

The U.S. reduced the odds of a Pacific El Nino, but said the prospect of La Nina ushering in cold weather across the northern U.S. has improved.

Extremes in Pacific Ocean temperatures, called La Nina and El Nino, can move markets the world over by spawning droughts and floods. In addition, El Nino, which seemed set to happen a few months ago, can put the brakes on a busy Atlantic hurricane season.

The chances that El Nino will form have dropped to 14 percent by the end of 2017 from above 50 percent earlier in the year, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center. Meanwhile, the possibility of La Nina has risen to 28 percent for December to February, up from 17 percent a month ago.

“The chances for El Nino have really diminished,” said Michelle L’Heureux, a forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. “From last month to this month we are now favoring La Nina with slightly higher chances, but overall we are strongly favoring neutral.”

La Nina can bring more rain across Indonesia, northern Australia and northeast Brazil, while keeping the U.S. South warm and dry, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The weather pattern can also bring cooler winters to Japan, western Canada and parts of the northern U.S. Natural gas traders often look to La Nina to chill the U.S. and drive consumption of the fuel for heating. A weak La Nina formed in November and faded by February.

L’Heureux said sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have cooled, as well as water deeper in the ocean. Where forecasters had been leaning to a warmer version of neutral, they have now flipped to the cooler variety.

While the water may have cooled, the atmosphere isn’t showing any signs of La Nina. In addition to water temperature, the skies above the ocean also need to react for La Nina or El Nino to be declared.

On Aug. 1, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology also said the Pacific will likely remain neutral for the rest of the year.

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