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El Niño less likely, but Aussie crops still affected

The chance of an El Niño weather pattern has declined in the last two weeks, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Oct. 9, but the east coast of Australia is likely to stay dry for the rest of the year as a result of a warmer-than-average Indian Ocean, threatening greater crop loss.

Pacific Ocean temperatures have cooled during the last two weeks, the weather bureau said, the second consecutive fortnightly fall. Other indicators used to predict an El Niño weather pattern have remained near neutral since late July.

“This is one of the more unusual events that anyone of us has seen,” said Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction at the bureau’s National Climate Centre.

“We saw things barrelling up (in) late August and early September, and we would normally have expected things to settle down, but instead it did a U-turn and headed away from what normally would have happened.”

While the chance of an El Niño is declining, Watkins said the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has persisted, and is likely to bring drier-than-normal weather across eastern Australia for the rest of the year.

An IOD is an oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon in the equatorial Indian Ocean that affects the climate of Australia and other countries surrounding the Indian Ocean basin.

Further dry weather across the Australian east coast would be a further blow to the country’s wheat production, which has already been hampered by dry weather.

Australia’s wheat production is likely to decline by more than one million tonnes from the government’s most recent estimate, and fall 27 per cent from last year’s record crop, a Reuters poll showed earlier in October, as dry weather cuts yields.

Much of the wheat potential has been lost from Western Australia, but analysts have also warned that New South Wales, where Australia’s highest-quality wheat is grown, would benefit from further moisture to aid crop growth.

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