U.S. forecaster sees El Nino peaking in winter

A wooden boat is seen stranded on the dry cracked riverbed of the Dawuhan Dam during drought season in Madiun, Indonesia's East Java province, October 5, 2015 in this picture taken by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Siswowidodo/Antara Foto (Reuters)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. government weather forecaster on Thursday said that the El Nino weather phenomenon under way would likely peak during the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2015/2016 and taper off to neutral in late spring or early summer 2016. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC), an agency of the National Weather Service, said the current El Nino conditions, which cause havoc with weather patterns, could rank among the three strongest since 1950. The CPC broadly maintained its outlook for strong El Nino conditions likely persisting through the winter. El Niño, which CPC noted has already caused "significant" impacts this year, is a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that occurs every few years, triggering heavy rains and floods in South America and scorching weather in Asia and as far away as east Africa. The phenomenon is expected to bring below-average temperature and greater precipitation across the Southern United States and above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation in the northern tier of the country in the upcoming months, CPC said. A strong El Nino last appeared in 2009-2010 and resulted in significant spikes in sugar, cocoa and wheat prices. (Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and W Simon)