updated 8/19/2009 10:57:54 AM ET 2009-08-19T14:57:54

A "weak to moderate" El Nino weather system has developed in the tropical Pacific Ocean and could create unusual weather patterns around the world through March, a U.N. agency said Wednesday.

The condition, which is linked to warmer surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean during the latter months of the year, is already being associated with an intense drought in south Asia, said Rupa Kumar Kolli, of the World Meteorological Organization.

But he noted that sea surface in the equatorial Pacific is less than 1.8 F warmer than normal. The El Nino will also likely mean a weak Atlantic hurricane season this year, he said.

"This is a weak to moderate event," Kolli told reporters.

"This particular event is nowhere close to the strength of the 1997 El Nino," he added, referring to the weather system 12 years ago that was linked to hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in losses around the world.

Kolli said it was difficult to predict all of the possible effects of the current El Nino, but said conditions could be drier than normal in eastern Africa. He said national meteorological bodies around the world would be monitoring the consequences in their regions.

The El Nino was first observed in June and July, and estimates indicate it will continue into the first quarter of next year, he said.

"Beyond that, the model predictions are not reliable," Kolli added.

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