Drier conditions likely for northwest and central parts of Western Australia

WA Seasonal Rainfall Outlook: probabilities for August to October 2012, issued 18th July 2012

Drier conditions likely for northwest and central parts of Western Australia

The WA outlook for late winter to mid-spring (August to October) indicates that:

  • a drier than normal season is favoured for northwest and central parts of WA.

This outlook is partly a result of emerging warmer waters in the central to eastern Pacific Ocean, with warmer than normal waters in the Indian Ocean also having an influence.

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

The chances of receiving above median rainfall during the August to October period are lower than 40% over much of the Pilbara, Gascoyne, Goldfields, and western Interior (see map). Such odds mean that for every ten years with similar ocean patterns to those currently observed, about three to four years would be expected to be wetter than average over these areas, while about six to seven years would be drier.

Over the rest of the State, the chances of a drier or wetter than normal August to October period 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 August to October period, history shows the effect to be moderately consistent over over the Kimberley and parts of southern WA, but only weakly to very consistent throughout much of the state (see background information). Users should exercise caution when using this outlook in areas of low skill.

Over the last few months, observations have been trending toward El Niño. This is consistent with most model forecasts indicating that the tropical Pacific may approach or exceed El Niño thresholds sometime during the late southern winter or spring 2012. Some models indicate only borderline El Niño conditions may occur, but none suggest a return of La Niña. Climatologists will continue to monitor conditions and outlooks closely for any further developments over the coming months, with information on the likelihood of El Niño 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.

 

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 22nd August 2012

Corresponding temperature outlook

June 2012 rainfall in historical perspective

April to June 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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