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South Pacific faces 8 to 10 storms

Published: 4:17PM Friday September 26, 2008 Source: Reuters

Eight to 10 tropical cyclones are expected to hit the South Pacific region over the next few months, scientists said on Friday, higher than last's year below-average five storms.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said forecasters in the region were agreed there was currently a neutral El Nino weather pattern.

"On average eight to ten tropical cyclones can be expected over the entire South Pacific region during a neutral season," NIWA said in a statement.

The El Nino weather pattern causes waters in the Pacific to turn abnormally warm.

Last year there were five cyclones in the Pacific region, just under half the average of the past 30 years.

In a neutral climate season tropical cyclones most commonly occur in the region between Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga, NIWA said.

The only area in the region expected to differ from normal is the eastern part of French Polynesia, which should see a lower risk of tropical cyclones.

The South Pacific cyclone season lasts from November to April, with peak occurrence between January and March.

For New Zealand, neutral El Nino conditions meant a high chance that a cyclone could pass close to the country.

The country has just emerged from the lesser-known La Nina weather pattern last year, which resulted in drought in some regions affecting agricultural production and a severe lowering of hydro-electricity lakes.

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