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Commodities eye

The Wrath of El Nino

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A father and his children walk over the cracked soil of 1.5 hectares of a dried-up fishery in the town of Novaleta in Cavite Province, south of Manila, on May 26.   © Reuters

As negotiators from all over the world gather to iron out an agreement to tackle impending climate change, little attention is paid to another weather phenomena that is already taking place in Asia, Africa and the Americas. The El Nino phenomenon, which translates as the Little Boy, has already brought more rain and drought than the greenhouse gas emissions and has been instrumental in causing volatility in prices of agricultural goods.

     El Nino is a large-scale weather anomaly that occurs when sea surface temperatures become unusually warmer than normal around the central and eastern parts of the Pacific Ocean near the equator. The higher surface temperatures cause more evaporation, which is carried by the wind currents that bring significant rainfall to the neighboring Asia-Pacific countries. El Nino also shifts wind patterns causing warmer and drier conditions in Southeast Asia, India, East Africa and Australia. Although five El Nino events were recorded in the last 20 years, the ones in 1997-98 and 2009-10 were the most severe. The 1997-98 event was instrumental in a number of crop failures that resulted in the inflation of food prices. The 2009-10 phenomenon was less devastating, but it still caused substantial disruption in crop production worldwide.

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