NT Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for July to September 2005, issued 17th June 2005

Neutral odds for exceeding average September quarter rain

The chances of accumulating at least average rain over the September quarter (Jul-Sep) are close to 50% across the Northern Territory, the Bureau of Meteorology announced today.

The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds is a result of above average temperatures in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Despite the continued possibility of an El Niño, the Pacific temperatures are not high enough to strongly bias the odds towards below average seasonal rainfall across eastern and southern Australia.

probability of exceeding median rainfall - click on the map for a larger version of the map

For the July to September period, the chances of above median rainfall are mainly between 40 and 45% over much of the NT (see map). However, it must be remembered that these three months are in the height of the dry season over the northern NT and heavy rain is uncommon during this period. So in years with ocean patterns like the current, about five September quarters out of ten are expected to be drier than average over the Territory, with about five out of ten being wetter.

Outlook confidence is related to the influence of Pacific and Indian Ocean temperatures on seasonal rainfall. During July to September, history shows this influence to be moderately consistent across most of the NT (see background information).

The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has been consistently negative over the past few months with values of –11 and –15 for April and May respectively. The approximate SOI for the 30 days ending 14th June was –14.

Low SOI values and continued warmth in the Pacific Ocean over the past three months, have increased the chances of an El Niño developing in 2005. However, most computer forecasts indicate neutral, though somewhat warmer than average, conditions across the tropical Pacific for the rest of the year. For routine updates and comprehensive discussion on the latest data relating to El Niño, together with details on what the phenomenon is and how it has affected Australia in the past, see the ENSO Wrap-Up.


Click on the map above for a larger version of the map. Use the reload/refresh button to ensure the latest forecast map is displayed.

More information on this outlook is available from 9.00am to 5.00pm (CST) Monday to Friday by contacting the Climate and Consultancy section in the Bureau's Darwin Office: (08) 8920 3813.


Corresponding temperature outlook

May 2005 rainfall in historical perspective

March to May 2005 rainfall in historical perspective


Background Information

  • The Bureau's seasonal outlooks are general statements about the probability or risk of wetter or drier than average weather over a three-month period. The outlooks are based on the statistics of chance (the odds) taken from Australian rainfall/temperatures and sea surface temperature records for the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are not, however, categorical predictions about future rainfall, and they are not about rainfall within individual months of the three-month outlook period. The temperature outlooks are for the average maximum and minimum temperatures for the entire three-month outlook period. Information about whether individual days or weeks may be unusually hot or cold, is unavailable.

  • This outlook is a summary. More detail is available from the contact people or from SILO (www.bom.gov.au/silo/products/SClimate.shtml).

  • Probability outlooks should not be used as if they were categorical forecasts. More on probabilities is contained in the booklet The Seasonal Climate Outlook - What it is and how to use it, available from the National Climate Centre. These outlooks should be used as a tool in risk management and decision making. The benefits accrue from long-term use, say over 10 years. At any given time, the probabilities may seem inaccurate, but taken over several years, the advantages of taking account of the risks should outweigh the disadvantages. For more information on the use of probabilities, farmers could contact their local departments of agriculture or primary industry.

  • Model Consistency and Outlook Confidence: Strong consistency means that tests of the model on historical data show a high correlation between the most likely outlook category (above/below median) and the verifying observation (above/below median). In this situation relatively high confidence can be placed in the outlook probabilities. Low consistency means the historical relationship, and therefore outlook confidence, is weak. In the places and seasons where the outlooks are most skilful, the category of the eventual outcome (above or below median) is consistent with the category favoured in the outlook about 75% of the time. In the least skilful areas, the outlooks perform no better than random chance or guessing. The rainfall outlooks perform best in eastern and northern Australia between July and January, but are less useful in autumn and in the west of the continent. The skill at predicting seasonal maximum temperature peaks in early winter and drops off marginally during the second half of the year. The lowest point in skill occurs in early autumn. The skill at predicting seasonal minimum temperature peaks in late autumn and again in mid-spring. There are also two distinct periods when the skill is lowest - namely late summer and mid-winter. However, it must always be remembered that the outlooks are statements of chance or risk. For example, if you were told there was a 50:50 chance of a horse winning a race but it ran second, the original assessment of a 50:50 chance could still have been correct.

  • The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is calculated using the barometric pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin. The SOI is one indicator of the stage of El Niño or La Niña events in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It is best considered in conjunction with sea-surface temperatures, which form the basis of the outlooks. A moderate to strongly negative SOI (persistently below –10) is usually characteristic of El Niño, which is often associated with below average rainfall over eastern Australia, and a weaker than normal monsoon in the north. A moderate to strongly positive SOI (persistently above +10) is usually characteristic of La Niña, which is often associated with above average rainfall over parts of tropical and eastern Australia, and an earlier than normal start to the northern monsoon season. The Australian impacts of 23 El Niño events since 1900 are summarized on the Bureau's web site (www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/).