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Does El Nino hail milder winter?
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-02 22:37

Although a Siberian cold front sent mercury plunging as much as 8 C in northern China last week, the country is expecting another warm winter.

The relatively warm conditions are expected to occur with El Nino returning, meteorologists with the Chinese National Meteorological Administration said yesterday.

According to scientific surveillance, signs of El Nino detected in atmospheric and surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean began to surge abnormally during June and August.

The eastern part of the tropical Pacific has entered El Nino situation as the abnormal temperature surge has maintained and is expected to gather force in the next months, meteorologists said.

Speaking from experiences over the past several decades, El Nino might bring China more frequent warm winters, more rain in its southern parts and drought in northern China, additional cool summers in northeastern China and fewer typhoons, Professor Ren Fuming of the National Meteorological Centre under the administration, told China Daily yesterday.

However, "it is still too early to make an accurate prediction on the impacts of the coming El Nino to China," Ren said.

Occurring every four or five years, El Nino, an extreme climatic phenomenon, is a disruption of the ocean-atmospheric system in the tropical Pacific and can cause climate disasters.

During last visit of El Nino from 1997 to 1998, global damage caused by floods, drought or storms reached US$20 billion.

However, besides El Nino, many other climate sectors, including the accumulated snow on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the subtropical high pressure zone and the current of the Indian Ocean, might influence the country's climate patterns, Ren said.

The centre will organize a national work conference on El Nino to discuss its potential impacts and further discuss climate trends in China.

The country has experienced 18 consecutive warm winters since 1986, occurring in tandem with global warming due to increasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Based on long-term observations, this winter, from late this year to early next year, might also see a warm winter, said Sun Yefu, a professor with Beijing Meteorological Observatory.

The average temperature last winter saw a surge of 2 to 3 C from the average winter temperatures of the past decades.

"But for this year, the final conclusions of how warm the winter will be can only be made after gathering statistics for December to February," Sun said.

While a warm winter creates a comfortable environment for people to live in, the warmer weather is expected to exacerbate a drought that threatens northern China and might trigger more forest fires, Sun said.

A dry winter can also cause more respiratory diseases, medical experts said.

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