UPDATE 1-U.S. weather forecaster maintains forecast for La Nina in fall or winter

Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:47am EDT
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NEW YORK Aug 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. government weather forecaster on Thursday reduced its outlook that La Nina conditions would develop in next few months but said it still expected the weather phenomenon to occur this fall or winter.

The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center said in its monthly forecast that La Nina was "slightly favored" to develop through October. That was a small change from July, when it stated the conditions were "favored" to occur.

The agency maintained its forecast of a 55 percent to 60 percent chance that La Nina would develop during the fall and winter of 2016/17.

La Nina, which tends to occur unpredictably every two to seven years, is characterized by unusually cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

The agency's predictions follow a damaging El Nino weather period. While typically less harsh than El Nino, severe La Nina occurrences have been linked to floods and droughts that can roil commodity markets.

Colombian coffee farmers are already bracing for torrential rains associated with La Nina that can damage crops, and cooler temperatures across the United States could boost demand for heating oil.

Slightly below-average sea surface temperatures across the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean were observed during the past month, the government forecaster said, adding the event would likely be weak if it occurred.

The agency's expectations for a La Nina have dropped substantially since June, when it said there was a 75 percent of one developing this fall and winter. (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Von Ahn)