National Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for Autumn 2007, issued 22nd February 2007

Mostly neutral autumn rainfall odds, except in WA

The national outlook for total autumn (March to May) rainfall, generally shows no strong swings in the odds towards wetter or drier conditions. In WA however, a drier than average autumn is more likely in the southwest, whereas above average falls are indicated further north in a zone stretching from the Pilbara to the interior.

The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across Australia is a result of higher than average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean (because of El Niño) and also in the Indian Ocean. More influence has come from the Pacific.

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

The chances of exceeding the median rainfall for the March to May period, are between 35 and 40% in parts of southwest WA south of Geraldton (see map). This means that BELOW median falls have about a 60 to 65% chance of occurring. So in years with ocean patterns like the current, about six autumns out of ten are drier than average and four out of ten are wetter in these regions with reduced odds.

In contrast, the chances of exceeding the median rainfall for autumn are between 60 and 70% in a wide band from northwest to central WA. So in years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven March to May periods out of ten are expected to be wetter than average across this region. However, over most of the country the chances of exceeding the seasonal median are between 40 and 60%.

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian rainfall. During autumn, history shows this effect to be moderately consistent across much of the north and west of the country. Elsewhere the effect is only weakly or very weakly consistent (see background information).

The January Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) value was −7, a slight drop from the December reading of −3. The approximate SOI for the 30-days ending 19th February was −3.

The 2006/07 El Niño has ended. All the main ENSO indicators show that neutral conditions have returned to the Pacific Basin. 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, please 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 4623, Lyn Bettio on (03) 9669 4165.

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

Regional commentary is available from the Climate Services Centres 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

January 2007 rainfall in historical perspective

November 2006 to January 2007 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 (