updated 10/6/2006 11:23:58 AM ET 2006-10-06T15:23:58

El Nino, a weather pattern that can wreak havoc in the Asia-Pacific region, will stay at least until spring 2007, the monthly report by the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.

The CPC, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said on its Web site that El Nino will stay “for the remainder of 2006 and into the northern hemisphere spring of 2007.”

El Nino is an abnormal warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean which causes wild swings in weather from Asia to South America -- causing searing drought in some and rampant flooding in others.

El Nino means "little boy" in Spanish. The phenomenon was given the name by its first observers, South American anchovy fishermen in the 19th century, because it normally peaked around Christmas.

The CPC said “typical” El Nino effects are likely to develop over North America during the winter.

This would include “warmer-than-average temperatures over western and central Canada, and over the western and northern United States, wetter-than-average conditions over portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast and Florida, and drier-than-average conditions in the Ohio Valley and the Pacific Northwest.”

Mild weather over the northern U.S. and Canada would affect the world’s top heating oil market.

Turning its attention to how El Nino would affect other parts of the world, the report said drier-than-average weather would be likely during November to March “over most of Malaysia, Indonesia, some of the U.S.-affiliated islands in the tropical North Pacific, northern South America and southeastern Africa.”

CPC said it should see “wetter-than-average conditions over equatorial East Africa, central South American (Uruguay, northeastern Argentina, and southern Brazil) and along the coasts of Ecuador and northern Peru.”

The CPC’s top El Nino expert, Vernon Kousky, told Reuters this El Nino will not be as bad as the 1997/98 version which killed hundreds and caused billions of dollars in damages.

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