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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Drought conditions associated with an El Nino weather pattern are likely to reoccur in a few months time, the South African government said on Thursday.
"Recurrence of El Niño drought conditions likely ... The next summer season has increased the likelihood for the development of El Nino conditions which are often associated with drought and water scarcity as seen recently in South Africa," the government said in a statement.
The previous El Nino, which faded in May of last year, brought widespread drought to southern Africa, hitting crop production and fuelling inflation across the region while leaving millions in need of food aid.
South Africa's weather service and global forecasters have predicted that El Nino will form again in the southern hemisphere winter or spring, which falls between July and September.
"The likelihood has increased from previous assessments and as we near the winter period, these forecasts improve in reliability," the government said.
It said the issue had been raised at a meeting on Wednesday of the National Disaster Management Advisory Forum (NDMAF), which coordinates the government's response to such events. The forum will meet again on May 11.
If El Nino does return between July or September, it would be the first time it reformed so quickly since the mid-1960s.
El Nino is a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that occurs every few years, with global consequences. In Africa it often brings excessive rains to the east while the southern cone gets parched.
Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Susan Fenton and David Evans