Monday 22 December 1997
Satellite pictures suggest that El Nino - that mysterious mass of warm water in the Pacific that has been turning climates on their heads - has now reached an all-time high and is still growing.
Curiously, from 10 November until the beginning of this month, El Nino decreased in size by about 10 per cent. Since then, however, it has grown consistently, and it is now bigger than ever.
According to one prediction, it will continue growing for another month or so. However, experience suggests that the only safe prediction in this area is that any major weather event will certainly be blamed on El Nino. A month ago, the Californians were rejoicing and praising El Nino because they had had fewer hurricanes than had been expected. A couple of weeks ago, however, they blamed El Nino for a storm that brought nearly 8in of rain and caused $10m in damage.
But El Nino does not cause bad weather, it just makes it happen where and when it is least expected. This huge pond of warm water is simply playing havoc with the world's weather, and we cannot predict what it will do.
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