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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (July 10, 2002 РNew Zealand Herald/PINA Nius Online)---United States government weather experts this week will provide new details about the expected emergence of an El Ni̱o in the Pacific, the New Zealand Herald reported.

El Niño is a weather anomaly blamed for worldwide droughts and floods. It involves an above-average warming of waters in the eastern Pacific that occurs every four to five years and distorts wind and rainfall patterns.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier predicted a "weak-to-moderate" El Niño could appear as early as this month.

It will issue its new assessment on Thursday (USA time), the New Zealand Herald reported.

An official said that in the past few weeks, meteorologists have observed sea surface temperatures in the Pacific continuing to be about one degree Celsius above normal. The data is important in determining when this year's El Niño has officially arrived.

Officials said this year's El Niño will be considerably weaker than the devastating 1997-98 phenomenon, which caused an estimated 24,000 deaths and US$ 34 billion in damages worldwide.

El Niño was first reported by Latin American fishermen in the 19th century and was named after the Christ child because it was usually seen in Pacific waters around Christmas.

For additional reports from The New Zealand Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ New Zealand Herald.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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