Mixed rainfall odds for late autumn to mid-winter

National Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for May to July 2012, issued 24th April 2012

Mixed rainfall odds for late autumn to mid-winter

The national outlook for May to July 2012 shows the following:

  • large parts of northern and eastern Australia more likely to have a wetter season
  • southeast Australia more likely to have a drier season
  • This outlook is strongly influenced by warmer than normal waters in the Indian Ocean.

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

    The chances of receiving above median rainfall for May to July are above 60% over the Kimberley, most of the NT, the southern two-thirds of Queensland and northeast NSW (see map above). The chances exceed 75% over the far northeast of NSW and southeast of Queensland. These odds mean that for every ten years with similar ocean patterns like the current, about six to eight years would be expected to be wetter than average over these areas, while about two to four years would be expected to be drier during the May to July period. It should be noted that rainfall is commonly low over much of the northern NT at this time of the year and contributes only a small fraction to the annual total.

    In contrast, the chances of receiving above normal rainfall are between 25 and 40% over southeast SA, western and central Victoria, and Tasmania. In other words, the chances of below normal rainfall is between 60 and 75% in these areas.

    Over the rest of the country, the chances of a drier or wetter May to July are roughly equal.

    An expanded set of seasonal rainfall outlook maps and tables, including the probabilities of seasonal rainfall exceeding given totals (e.g. chance of receiving at least 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 May to July period, history shows the effect to be moderately consistent over the northern NT, southern Queensland, the northeast half of NSW, southern Victoria and Tasmania. Patches across the WA interior are also moderately consistent. Elsewhere, the effect is only weakly to very weakly consistent (see background information). Users should exercise caution when using this outlook in these areas of low skill.

    The 2011-12 La Niña event has ended, with all key indicators now at neutral (i.e., not El Niño nor La Niña) levels. Climate models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology indicate neutral conditions are likely to continue over the coming months, with some (but not all) models suggesting El Niño conditions may develop during the winter or spring. Bureau of Meteorology climatologists closely monitor the state of the climate, with information on the liklihood of El Niño or La Niña available fortnightly at 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: Andrew Watkins on (03) 9669 4360, Robyn Duell on (03) 9669 4671, Catherine Ganter on (03) 9669 4679.


    Regional versions of this media release are available: | Northern Aust | Southeastern Aust | WA |

    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



    Corresponding temperature outlook

    March 2012 rainfall in historical perspective

    January to March 2012 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.

    • Probability outlooks should not be used as if they were categorical forecasts. 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 past El Niño events since 1900 are summarized on the Bureau's web site (El Niño - Detailed Australian Analysis), and past La Niña events (La Niña - Detailed Australian Analysis)

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