El Niño — a naturally occurring phenomenon that causes the Pacific Ocean to warm up and usually reduces snowfall — is back and may impact the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Surface temperatures along a narrow part of the Pacific climbed about 0.5 C above normal last month, according to scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admini-stration.

The finding led them to announce the arrival of El Niño on Thursday.

Gabor Fricska, a meteorologist at Environment Canada, said the phenome-non, which is gaining strength, is expected to last anywhere from six to 18 months.

“Typically an El Niño results in higher than normal temperatures in the Vancouver area and across Southwestern B.C.,” Fricska said.

Warmer temperatures would mean higher freezing levels, which could cause headaches to organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

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