Southeastern Aust Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for Summer 2008/2009, issued 26th November 2008

Wetter than normal summer indicated for northeast NSW

The outlook for total rainfall during summer (December to February) shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring wetter than normal conditions over northeastern NSW. However, over the remainder of southeastern Australia the outlook shows no strong bias towards either wetter or drier conditions, with the chances of being wetter than normal being about the same as the chances of being drier.

Over the far northeast of NSW, the chances of summer totals exceeding the 3-month median rainfall are around 60% (see map). This means for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six years are expected to be wetter than average while about four years are expected to be drier. Over the remainder of southeastern Australia the chance of exceeding the seasonal median rainfall is between 40% and 60%. This means the chances of being wetter than normal in these areas are about the same as the chances of being drier.

The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across southeastern Australia is mainly a result of recent warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the central and southeastern Indian Ocean, especially off the northwest Western Australian coast. Conditions in the Pacific Ocean have been neutral and so are currently not having a significant effect on the seasonal rainfall odds.

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

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian rainfall. During summer, history shows this effect to be moderately consistent over eastern NSW and most of southern Victoria. However, confidence is only weakly consistent over western NSW, northern Victoria, SA and most of Tasmania (see background information). In these areas where outlook confidence is not high caution should be used when interpreting these outlooks.

The tropical Pacific Ocean remains ENSO-neutral. Sea surface temperatures across most of the equatorial Pacific are near normal, although cool sub-surface temperatures persist in the eastern half of the basin. The SOI remains positive at approximately +14 for the 30 days ending 23 November. Computer models indicate that neutral conditions are likely to continue through summer. 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:

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 17th December 2008

Corresponding temperature outlook

October 2008 rainfall in historical perspective

August to October 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/).