British scientists yesterday forecast a dry winter for the Balearics which will cause further concern for the local authorities who are still battling with the problem of drought. The experts from the Benfield Greig Haward Research Centre in southeast England said Spain, Portugal and the Mediterranean were likely to experience drier and less windy weather than normal. The forecast is based on observations of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), an oceanic-atmospheric phenomenon that drives the weather in northern Europe and as far east as northern Asia. The oscillation is year-on-year see-saw in atmospheric pressure between Iceland and the Azores. Less than a quarter of the winters in the last half century have had higher NAO index figures than this one and therefore more potential for mild weather. Floods and droughts have on average caused $2 billion of damage each year over the last decade, according to insurer Swiss Re, while extremes of temperature have caused on average $300 million damage per year. The forecast is a joint initiative between insurer Benfield Greig and the University College of London. In the UK and Ireland there is a 74 percent chance that the temperature will be above average, and although we have not done the calculations, it seems probable that the winter in Scandinavia, Northwest Europe and northern Asia will also be warmer than usual, the scientists said. However, the report makes bad reading for the local authorities and local farmers who were hoping for more rain after a year of severe drought. The lack of rain has caused plenty of problems for local farmers and many say that their crops have been badly hit. The local government was hoping that rain this winter would help fill island reservoirs which reached dangers levels last summer forcing the government to buy mobile desalination plants.