Weak El Nino Possibly Forming

Weak El Nino conditions could appear by year's end, federal officials said today.

If so, then the United States should expect wetter-than-average conditions over portions of the Gulf Coast and southeastern states in the first three months of 2007, and warmer-than-average conditions would likely settle in over the West, the northern Great Plains and the upper Midwest.

El Nino, marked by warm water in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America, can also impact hurricane formation in the Atlantic. But the any changes that might come by the end of this year will be too late to affect the 2006 hurricane season, forecasters said.

"Based on recent trends there is a 50 percent chance that weak El Nino conditions will develop late this year and continue through early 2007,' said Vernon Kousky of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "At the moment, it is too early to be certain as to whether or not El Nino will develop."