National Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for Winter 2010, issued 25th May 2010
The national outlook for total rainfall over winter (June to August), shows a moderate to strong shift in the odds favouring a drier than normal season over a broad band stretching from the NT and WA to southeastern Australia.
The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across Australia is due to recent higher than average temperatures in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The influences from these two oceans counteract each other in eastern Queensland and northern NSW: the Indian Ocean pattern promotes wetter conditions while the Pacific biases the climate towards a drier than normal season.
The chances of exceeding the median rainfall for winter are below 40% over most of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and southwestern NSW, as well as over the southwest of Western Australia. The probabilities drop to between 25 and 30% over southwestern Victoria, parts of southeastern SA and northern Tasmania (see map). The chances of exceeding the median rainfall for winter are also below 40% over much of the NT and the East Kimberley in WA, but little rainfall is expected in those areas at this time of year.
This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven June-August periods are expected to be drier than average over this broad region of central and southern Australia, while about three or four periods are wetter.
Across the rest (and most) of the country, the chances of exceeding the median winter rainfall are between 40 and 60%, 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 winter, history shows this effect to be moderately consistent across much of Queensland , the NT, NSW and Victoria, but generally weakly consistent elsewhere across the country, reaching moderate only in patches (see background information).
The 2009/10 El Niño event across the Pacific Basin has now concluded. Most leading climate models indicate further cooling during the coming months, with the possible development of La Niña conditions by late winter or spring. The SOI is approximately +6 for the 30 days ending 22 May. For routine updates and comprehensive discussion on any developments regarding El Niño and La Niña, please see the 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.
The following climate meteorologists in the National Climate Centre can be contacted about this outlook: Elise Chandler on (03) 9669 4748, Karl Braganza on (03) 9669 4344, Robyn Duell on (03) 9669 4671.
Regional commentary is available from the Climate Services Sections in the Bureau's Regional Offices:
|Queensland -||(07) 3239 8660|
|New South Wales -||(02) 9296 1555|
|Victoria -||(03) 9669 4949|
|Tasmania -||(03) 6221 2043|
|South Australia -||(08) 8366 2664|
|Western Australia -||(08) 9263 2222|
|The Northern Territory -||(08) 8920 3813|
THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE SEASONAL OUTLOOK IS EXPECTED BY 23rd June 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