Northern Aust Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for January to March 2010, issued 21st December 2009
The northern Australian outlook for total January-March rainfall shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring a drier than normal March quarter for most of eastern and central Queensland. Over the rest of northern Australia, there is no strong bias in the odds suggesting the March quarter will be either wetter than, or drier than normal.
The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across northern Australia has been strongly influenced by the El Niño pattern of higher than average temperatures across the central to eastern Pacific Ocean. Although weaker, the contribution from above normal Indian Ocean temperatures has reinforced the Pacific influence.
The chance of exceeding the median rainfall rainfall for January to March is between 30 and 40% for a large area covering much of eastern and central Queensland. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven March quarters are expected to be drier than average in this region, while about three or are expected to be wetter. However, the skill of these outlooks is not high over the more western inland areas of Queensland (roughly west of the 35% contour), so caution is advised when applying the outlook in these regions.
Across the rest of northern Australia, the chances of exceeding the median March quarter rainfall are between 40 and 55%, meaning that above average falls are about as equally likely as below average falls.
An expanded set of seasonal rainfall outlook maps and tables, including the probabilities of seasonal rainfall exceeding given totals (e.g. 200 mm), is available on the "Water and the Land" (WATL) part of the Bureau's website.
Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian rainfall. During the March quarter, history shows the effect to be moderately consistent through eastern parts of NSW and Queensland, large parts of the NT. Elsewhere the effect is only weakly or very weakly consistent (see background information).
An El Niño event persists across the Pacific Basin, with most leading climate models suggesting tropical ocean temperatures will remain above El Niño thresholds until at least early 2010. El Niño events are usually (but not always) associated with below normal rainfall in the second half of the year across large parts of southern and inland eastern Australia. However, the influence from El Niño often weakens in the second half of summer. The SOI is approximately −9 for the 30 days ending 16 December. For routine updates and comprehensive discussion on any developments please see the ENSO Wrap-Up.
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More information on this outlook is available 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 19th January 2010
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 (Seasonal Climate Outlook Products).
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 (El Niño - Detailed Australian Analysis).
© Australian Government, Bureau of Meteorology