According to NOAA weather experts, a recent analysis of ocean temperatures, coupled with model forecasts, indicate that the weather phenomenon will weaken throughout February and April 2003, and that near-normal sea surface temperatures should return to the equatorial Pacific between May and October 2003.
So far, the El Niño, which was detected in May, 2002, has been blamed for a wide range of extreme weather across the United States, not all of which has been unfavorable. In the late fall and early winter, increased storm activity brought drought relief to many areas in the southern and eastern United States. And, despite some recent colder air outbreaks, the 2002-03 winter season has been impacted by the warmer and drier influences characteristic of El Niño in many parts of the northern U.S.
The NOAA announcement, however, came with a warning, and noted that such precipitation could occur any time through early March.
"It's still a little soon to say that California won't experience this impact," said Jim Laver, director of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
El Niño Rains Batter Peru
Although parts of the United States have weathered the milder effects of El Niño, other regions of the world haven't been as lucky.
During the past week, heavy rains have battered Peru, triggering extensive floods that killed at least 18 people and destroyed more than 6,000 homes. The deluges also wiped out huge swathes of crops in the Cusco, Madre de Dios and Puno regions.
Already damage costs are estimated in the tens of millions, but the situation could get worse. The hot temperatures and stagnant pools of water created an ideal breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitos, and at least 600 cases of malaria have been discovered.
Despite the extensive damages caused by this year's El Nino, Peru sustained much more severe devastation last time the weather phenomenon struck. During the 1997-98 El Nino, more than 200 people were killed and damages were estimated at $3.5 billion.
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