National Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for October to December 2005, issued 15th September 2005

Mixed rainfall outlook for December quarter

Northwest to central WA faces the prospect of increased rainfall during the December quarter (October to December), but the odds have swung towards drier than average conditions in parts of the east, the Bureau of Meteorology announced today. However, the chances of accumulating at least median three-month rainfall are close to 50% across most of the country.

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

For the October to December period, the chances of above median rainfall are between 30 and 40% in a band extending from the far southeast of South Australia to West Gippsland and over most of Tasmania (see map). This includes most of the areas that have been suffering severe short-term rainfall deficiencies since the start of autumn, and a general downturn in rainfall since the mid 1990s. See the Drought Statement for more information. The chances of a wetter than average season also drop below 40% over an area of north Queensland inland from Townsville.

So in years with ocean patterns like the current, about three or four December quarters out of ten are expected to be wetter than the median over these parts of eastern Australia, with about six or seven out of ten being drier.

In contrast, parts of northwest to central WA have an increased likelihood of a wetter than average October to December period, with probabilities in the 60 to 65% range. It should be noted though, that the December quarter is a seasonally dry time of year in parts of WA's Gascoyne and Pilbara districts with heavy rain being uncommon.

Outlook confidence is related to the influence of Pacific and Indian Ocean temperatures on seasonal rainfall. During the December quarter, history shows this influence to be moderately consistent across much of the country (see background information).

The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) fell from +1 in July to −7 in August. However, the SOI has begun to rise again with the approximate value for the 30 days ending 12th September being −1.

With all the main tropical Pacific climate indicators remaining neutral, an El Niño event developing in 2005 is not considered a realistic possibility. 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.

The following climate meteorologists in the National Climate Centre can be contacted about this outlook: Grant Beard on (03) 9669 4527, Blair Trewin on (03) 9669 4603, Andrew Watkins on (03) 9669 4360.

Regional versions of this media release are available: | Qld | NSW | Vic | Tas | SA | WA | NT |

Regional commentary is available from the Climate and Consultancy Sections in the Bureau's Regional Offices:

Queensland -(07) 3239 8660
New South Wales -(02) 9296 1522
Victoria -(03) 9669 4949
Tasmania -(03) 6221 2043
South Australia -(08) 8366 2664
Western Australia -(08) 9263 2222
The Northern Territory -(08) 8920 3813


Corresponding temperature outlook

August 2005 rainfall in historical perspective

June to August 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 (

  • 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 (