Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has issued an alert for a La Niña weather event starting next month, saying the chance it would take place was triple the normal likelihood.
The weather occurrence La Niña is triggered when sea surface temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean drop to lower-than-normal levels. It generally implies stormier and cold winters in Asia's northern hemisphere and warm but wet summers in the southern hemisphere.
The Australian bureau pegged the chance of a La Niña at 70 percent, adding that all its models reached La Niña thresholds in December with most models suggesting it would last until at least February.
This is a notch-up from Japan's weather bureau, which last week increased the likelihood of La Niña from 50 percent to 60 percent.
"This could lead to a colder-than-usual winter in the northern [hemisphere], which would be positive for coal and gas demand," said Ralph Leszczynski, head of research at shipping brokerage Bancosta in Singapore.
He added that La Niña could lead to dry conditions in many agricultural crop growing regions, which would include the southern United States, and hot but unusually wet weather for most of Australia.
Not as Bad as Its Brother, but Still Bad
While a La Niña, which means little girl in Spanish, tends to be less damaging than the corresponding El Niño (little boy), which occurs when there are warmer waters in the Pacific, a strong event can have a severe impact on agricultural and commodity markets.
In the past, La Niñas have caused supply disruptions in food crops and mining output in the southern hemisphere, including in Australia.
In the Atlantic basin, La Niña is also known to trigger hurricanes.
The BOM said in the alert on its website that the event would likely be weaker and shorter than the strong La Niña that occurred between 2010 and 2012 and brought devastating floods to Australia.
A US government weather forecaster this month said La Niña conditions are predicted to continue through the Northern hemisphere winter 2017-18.