Weather wise

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GIVE A Nino a bad name and it'll get blamed for everything. In the past week, we have seen El Nino blamed for the tornadoes that destroyed lives and property in Florida, and for the rains that have killed off the tourist season in California, and for the water shortages in Hawaii.

Indeed, in California, a 25 to 50 percent drop in tourist business has forced lay-offs and budget cuts. Disneyland and Universal Studios have both refused to release attendance figures during the wet winter, though they have tried to put a positive spin on the climate by pointing out that umbrella sales are up.

In Hawaii, where one might think they would be grateful for anything that reduces the average 101/2 feet of rain each year, a state of emergency has been declared as the unexpected drought has led to water rationing and a threat of bush fires.

What we rarely hear about, however, is the good side of El Nino. All it is doing, after all, is shifting weather patterns from one part of the globe to another. For every area struck by an El Nino related hurricane or tornado, there is another region that is not suffering the sort of life-threatening weather it would otherwise have expected.

In the Upper Midwest of the US, El Nino is seen as a friend. As temperatures - usually below zero at this time of year - have reached 10C, birds are singing and the grass has begun to turn green. And you can even buy sweat- shirts saying: "Let it snow someplace else."