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Look Out for La Niña: Two Ways to Profit From this Seasonal Weather Shift

If you follow the commodity markets, you know that weather can have a dramatic effect on your investments.

A flood, drought, hurricane, tornado, or even something as simple as the changing of the seasons can be a game changer.

For example, flooding along the Mississippi River earlier this year damaged roughly 3.6 million acres of U.S. cropland. Arkansas lost about 1 million acres, with Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee also affected. The floods hurt about 2 million acres of cornfields, affected upwards of 40% of the nation's rice crop, and drove wheat prices to historically high levels.

Surprises like these aren't confined to the United States, either.

Thailand this year experienced its worst floods in more than a half-century. Thailand is the world's largest rice exporter, and flooding may have wiped out as much as 14% of the country's paddy fields, potentially erasing the predicted global glut.

Meanwhile, droughts in China- another major rice producer - affected 16.1 million acres of farmland.

As a result, rice, a food staple for half the world, has been this year's best-performing agricultural commodity.

You might say that weather is impossible to predict, but you'd only be half right. Modern meteorology, while by no means perfect, can give us an idea of what to expect from shifting weather patterns. And if you know what to look for, you can cash in on some amazing trading opportunities.

For instance, right now, there's no weather pattern more vital - and potentially profitable - than La Niña.

La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, compared to El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast and cooler than normal in the Northwest.

In fact, La Nina is what brought dry winter conditions to China's grain belt and extreme rains to Australia earlier this year.

And it's not done yet. So here's what you need to know going forward.

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