WA Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for Winter 2010, issued 25th May 2010
The WA outlook for total rainfall over winter (June to August) indicates a moderate bias in the odds favouring a drier than normal season over the southwest of the state.
The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across Australia is due to recent higher than average temperatures in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, with the Indian Ocean the main influence over WA in this outlook.
The chance of exceeding the median rainfall for winter is between 30 and 40% for the southwest of WA. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six to seven June-August periods are expected to be drier than average in southwest WA, while about three to four periods are expected to be wetter.
Across much of the remainder of WA, the chance of exceeding median winter rainfall is between 40 and 50%, apart from in the east Kimberley and far northeast Interior where the chance is between 35 and 40%. However, rainfall is typically low in the north of the state during this time of year. So above average falls in winter are about as equally likely as below average falls in most of WA outside the southwest.
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 very weakly consistent for much of the southwest and central WA, and weakly to moderately consistent in northern parts of the state (see background information).
The 2009/10 El Ni 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 ENSO Wrap-Up.
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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 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