The India Meteorological Department has forecast a warmer winter this year due to the influence of an El Niño weather system in the Pacific Ocean.

El Niño causes a set of changes in the weather system near the coast of northern Peru and Ecuador every few years, causing the surface of the Pacific Ocean to become warmer. It affects rainfall patterns, and has caused droughts and floods in the past.

In a statement issued on Monday, the department said winter would last till February 2019, and above normal sub-divisional average minimum temperatures are expected across the country.

An unidentified weather department official said minimum temperatures in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra would remain between 0.50 degree Celsius and 0.88 degree Celsius above normal. Normal winter conditions will prevail in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, sub-Himalayan West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, the statement added.

“The equatorial sea surface temperatures recorded from Pacific Ocean are above normal, but the atmosphere has not shown any significant variations correspondingly,” , The Indian Express quoted a senior Met department official in Pune as saying. “A weak El Niño is likely to develop by the end of winter, towards February 2019. At the moment, indications are that it could be an El Niño event lasting for a short duration.”

On November 27, the World Meteorological Organization said there was a 75% to 80% chance of an El Niño developing by February 2019. The organisation said the odds of the phenomenon being a strong event is currently low.