Northern Aust Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for Summer 2007/2008, issued 22nd November 2007

Increased summer rainfall for southeast Queensland

The northern Australian outlook for total rainfall during the heart of the wet season (December to February), shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring above average totals in southeast Queensland. Over the rest of the NT and Queensland, the chance of receiving above average rainfall is about equal to the chance of receiving below average rainfall.

The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across Australia is mainly a result of continuing higher than average temperatures over parts of the tropical and sub-tropical Indian Ocean. However, cooler than average temperatures in the equatorial central to eastern Pacific have contributed to the higher chances of a wetter than average summer in eastern Australia.

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

The chances of exceeding the median rainfall for summer are between 60 and 70% in an area of southeast Queensland roughly bounded by Gladstone, Charleville and Godooga (NSW) (see map). So for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven summers are expected to be wetter than average in southeast Queensland, while about three or four are drier.

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian rainfall. During December to February, history shows this effect to be moderately consistent in parts of eastern and southern Queensland and the far northwest of the NT (see background information). Elsewhere in Queensland and the NT the effect is generally only weakly or very weakly consistent, and this is the reason for the chances being close to 50%.

A late-developing La Niña event is in progress across the Pacific Basin and computer models indicate it will persist at least until the early part of 2008. The 30-day value of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was +11 as at 19th November. For routine updates and comprehensive discussion on any developments 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.

 

More information on this outlook is available Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm local time by contacting the Bureau's Climate Services sections in Queensland and the Northern Territory at the following numbers:

Brisbane -(07) 3239 8660
Darwin -(08) 8920 3813
 

THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE SEASONAL OUTLOOK IS EXPECTED BY 17th DECEMBER 2007

Corresponding temperature outlook

October 2007 rainfall in historical perspective

August to October 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 (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/).