If you thought El Nino was bad, just wait for his little sister to arrive. The latest report from the World Meteorological Organisation points to the current El Nino being followed by a cold-weather La Nina.

El Nino, the pool of warm water that has been playing havoc with climates in the southern hemisphere, is getting smaller, but even at 60 per cent of its maximum it is still one-and-a-half times the size of the United States. "This warm pool has so much energy that its impact will continue to dominate world climate patterns through to mid-1998," according to the latest update from the WMO.

Before El Nino fades away in May, it is expected to bring increased storminess to California and the southern United States, while the torrential downpours that have already begun in Kenya and Somalia will continue until March. Indonesia, southern Africa and eastern Australia, however, will be drier than normal.

In the second half of the year, we may have something else to worry about. Many climate models predict a return to normal after El Nino, but some suggest it will be followed by La Nina, a pool of cold water in the Pacific which can bring abnormally cold weather. This El Nino, however, is so much bigger than anything experienced before that nobody can say with confidence what will happen after it.