Southeastern Aust Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for May to July 2008, issued 23rd April 2008

Higher seasonal rainfall favoured in northern NSW

For southeastern Australia, the outlook for total rainfall over May to July shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring a wetter than normal season over northern parts of NSW.

The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across southeastern Australia is a result of a combination of cooler than average waters across the equatorial Pacific in association with the now weakening La Niña, and warmer than average waters in the Indian Ocean near Australia.

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

The chances of exceeding the median rainfall over May to July are between 55% and 65% north and east of a line from the northwest corner of NSW to the coast at about Sydney (see map). So for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six May to July periods are expected to be wetter than average in these parts of southeastern Australia, while about four are drier.

Over the rest of the southeast the chances of exceeding the three-month median rainfall are close to 50%: in these areas the chances of it being wetter than normal are about the same as the chances of it being drier. Probabilities of a wet season are just slightly higher for the north and east of Tasmania and for the southern fringe of Victoria west of Wilson's Promontory.

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian rainfall. During the May-July period, history shows this effect to be moderately consistent over the northeastern half of NSW, Tasmania and a thin band running along the southern fringe of Victoria west of Wilson's Promontory into the southeast districts of South Australia. Elsewhere in South Australia, in eastern and northern Victoria and in the southwestern half of NSW the effect is only weakly or very weakly consistent (see background information).

The La Niña event in the Pacific Basin is weakening: computer models indicate a return to neutral conditions over the outlook period of May-July The 30-day value of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was +5 as at 20th April. 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, NSW, SA, Victoria and Tasmania at the following numbers:

Brisbane -(07) 3239 8660
Sydney -(02) 9296 1555
Adelaide -(08) 8366 2664
Melbourne -(03) 9669 4949
Hobart -(03) 6221 2043
 

THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE SEASONAL OUTLOOK IS EXPECTED BY 27th May 2008

Corresponding temperature outlook

March 2008 rainfall in historical perspective

January to March 2008 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/).