NEW YORK, May 8 (Reuters) - The La Nina weather pattern has weakened sharply and may last only until early in the Northern Hemisphere summer, the U.S. government's Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.
In a monthly update, the Center said "a transition from La Nina to neutral conditions is possible during June-July 2008."
Earlier this year, the Center and other forecasters had expressed fears that La Nina could last well into summer.
"La Nina continued to weaken during April 2008, as reflected by changes in sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the equatorial Pacific Ocean," the CPC said.
La Nina, which literally means "little girl" in Spanish, usually results in cooler than normal water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and is said to aid hurricane formation in the Atlantic basin.
The more famous El Nino phenomenon causes waters in the Pacific to turn abnormally warm and its wind shear was said to hinder Atlantic storms which would sweep into the Gulf and disrupt oil and gas production in the area.
The Center said atmospheric conditions related to La Nina often persist for a couple of months after sea surface temperatures return to normal.
It said above average rain remains likely for Indonesia and below average rainfall will persist in the central Pacific.
CPC said a majority of computer models indicated La Nina will last through July and then normal sea surface temperatures should prevail during the second half of 2008.
"However, the spread of the models spans the possibility of a return to La Nina or even an El Nino by the end of 2008," it said.
El Nino and La Nina would normally follow one after the other in the central Pacific Ocean.
El Nino is more notorious and was named after the Christ child because it was first noticed by Latin American anchovy fishermen in the 19th century.
It struck with devastating fury in 1997/98, sparking drought in countries like Australia and Indonesia while spawning floods in Peru and Ecuador. (Reporting by Rene Pastor)