Dec 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. national weather forecaster said on Thursday the much-feared El Niño weather phenomenon is unlikely to appear before the Northern Hemisphere spring, further reducing the chances of a drought in Asia and flooding in South America.
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC)'s latest forecast is later than previously expected - last month it said the pattern that can wreak havoc on weather would not appear until the end of the 2012/13 winter.
"It is considered unlikely that a fully coupled El Niño will develop during the next several months. (El Niño) neutral is now favored through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13 and into spring 2013," the CPC said on Thursday in its monthly report.
The likelihood of El Niño, essentially a warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, has dissipated in recent months and led the CPC to call off its five-month El Niño watch in its November update.
El Niño leads to a heating of Pacific waters, triggering drought in Southeast Asia and Australia, which produce some of the world's major food staples, such as sugar cane and grains. It can also cause flooding in South America.
For the United States, El Niño can bring higher than average winter precipitation to the Southwest, less wintry weather across the North as well as stronger winter storms in California and increased storminess across the southern states.
The CPC is part of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).