WA Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for May to July 2009, issued 24th April 2009

Higher seasonal rainfall favoured in parts of northern WA

The WA outlook for total rainfall over the late autumn to mid-winter period (May to July), shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring a wetter than normal season in parts of northern WA.

The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across Western Australia is mainly a result of warm conditions in the Indian Ocean in February; the Pacific Ocean had little contribution to this forecast.

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

For the May to July period, the chance of above median rainfall is between 60 and 65% in the east Kimberley, despite the east Kimberley region being seasonally dry at this time of year. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven years are expected to be wetter than average over these parts of the east Kimberley, while about three or four years are expected to be drier.

Across the rest of WA, the chance of exceeding the median rainfall during the coming three months is between 45 and 60%, meaning that above average falls are about as equally likely as below average falls throughout most of the state.

New: Under the WATL part of the Bureau's website, there is an expanded set of seasonal rainfall outlook maps and tables, including the probabilities of seasonal rainfall exceeding given totals (e.g. 200 mm).

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 in patches through various regions of Western Australia. However, in some parts the effect is only weakly or very weakly consistent, most notably in the climatologically wetter regions of southwest WA (see background information).

Pacific climate patterns are currently neutral and the consensus from computer models is for near average tropical Pacific surface temperatures in the middle of the year, although with some warming from present values. The SOI is approximately +8 for the 30 days ending 21 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 detailed forecast maps, including the probabilities of seasonal rainfall exceeding given totals, can be found here.

 
More information on this outlook is available from 8.30am to 4.30pm (WST) Monday to Friday by contacting the Climate Services Centre in the Bureau's Perth Office: (08) 9263 2222.
 

THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE SEASONAL OUTLOOK IS EXPECTED BY 26th May 2009

Corresponding temperature outlook

March 2009 rainfall in historical perspective

January to March 2009 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 25 El Niño events since 1900 are summarized on the Bureau's web site (www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/).