El Nino has fully lived up to its advance publicity. They called it "the climate event of the century" and in terms of both damage and unpredictability it has merited that description. There was drought followed by floods in South America, fires in Indonesia causing smog in Malaysia, destructive bush fires in Australia, and then - most unexpectedly - the first snow this century in some parts of Mexico. When El Nino gets going, nobody seems to be able to predict what might happen.
The economic cost, however, will be greater than the environmental damage, but the biggest potential item on the bill will only be added when El Nino reaches the United States next month.
In July, eastern and central Europe suffered the worst floods in living memory, costing more than 100 lives in Poland and the Czech Republic. Nobody seems to know whether this was connected with El Nino.
Finally, there was the Kyoto conference on global warming, "a vital turning point", as Al Gore called it, in man's fight against his own pollution. Yet the final agreement was so diluted - and still faces ratification by a hostile US Senate - that from most perspectives it looks more like a gentle bend in the road than a vital turning point.Reuse content