Latam weather experts forecast drought, frosts in Pacific Basin after El Niño

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Latam weather experts forecast drought, frosts in Pacific Basin after El Niño

As the weather phenomenon El Niño starts to wind down, two Chilean specialists spoke with about what Latin American growers could expect from conditions over the next quarter. 

Universidad de Chile meteorologist Fernando Santibáñez said the phenomenon had weakened sharply in the region, with expectations the effects of its lower intensity would be felt in March.

"We will enter a neutral phase, meaning the weather returns to its normal historical rate, which applies to countries from the Pacific Basin. Chile will probably be the first [country] where the effect will go away," he said.

"March could bring some rain to Peru and Colombia, and in the Northern Hemisphere the phenomenon has already weakened a lot. No great changes are expected, except for some rain in California," he said.

"It is already a withdrawn phenomenon and the possibility grows that the rest of the year will be normal, or even moving into a cold phase."

The expert said the El Niño often created a rebound effect on weather conditions.

"In the cold phase there are droughts. For what comes from May onwards, it is probable that it's neutral or cold," Santibáñez said.

"What is certain is that it won't be warm for the rest of the year. It's unlikely that we will have normal rains from May onwards. This applies to northern Peru, the Colombian Pacific Coast and for California.

"It [moisture] should normalize in April onwards, but polar frosts could return. This year won't be so calm from a point of view of frosts in Chile and Argentina."

Chilean Bureau of Meteorology (MeteoChile) specialist Jaime Leyton said high temperatures and very little rain was in the pipeline for the coming months.

"The El Niño phenomenon between December of 2015 and January of 2016 reached its peak. From the start of January the slowdown began and according to projections, anomalies will extend to April-May. In the fall, we will enter the neutral phase," Leyton said.

"It is estimated that in the whole central zone, from the Metropolitana region to the south, there will be a shortage of rainfall, so we expect precipitation will be below normal. There will only be an exception on the coastal part of the Valparaiso region where there could be normal rains - all of this is in February, March and April.

"After a year of El Niño, the following year has a 50% probability of being normal and in no case will there be rainy conditions."


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