Strongest El Nino in nearly 20 years ends: Australian weather bureau

By Colin Packham SYDNEY (Reuters) - The strongest El Nino in nearly 20 years, which damaged crop production in Asia and caused food shortages, has ended, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said on Tuesday. Climate indicators associated with El Nino, which emerged in 2015, have now returned to neutral levels, the BOM said. El Nino sees in a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific which can lead to scorching weather across Asia and east Africa, but heavy rains and floods in South America. The latest El Nino resulted in sea temperatures rising to the highest levels in 19 years, causing drier than average weather which resulted in a fall in production of wheat, palm oil and rice in Asia. The end of El Nino was not unexpected with climate indicators cooling in recent months, but Australia's BOM is the first major meteorology agency to declare the end of El Nino. Farmers will now be looking for the development of a La Nina weather pattern, which typically brings wetter weather across the Asian region. The chance of La Nina is at 50 percent, the Australian weather bureau said. (Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)