Northern Australian rainfall outlook

Issued 24 April 2014

Early dry season likely to be drier for tropical north

Summary

  • The chances of a wetter or drier than normal season are roughly equal over the majority of northern Australia
  • Odds favour a drier than normal season for parts of the northern tropics
  • Climate influences include a warming tropical Pacific, and a warm Indian Ocean
  • Outlook accuracy is moderate across the Alice and most of Queensland, and low over the northern half of the NT
Probability of exceeding median rainfall, large image

Details

The chance of exceeding the median rainfall is less than 40% over the Top End of the NT, and the northern tip of Queensland. In other words, the chances of below average rainfall are greater than 60% over these areas. However, it should be noted that average rainfall at this time of year is far less than is received during the wet season months for most of northern Australia (see Rainfall averages tab).

Over the rest of northern Australia, there is no significant shift in the odds towards either a wetter or drier than normal season.

Climate influences

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) currently remains neutral, but is in a state of transition towards El Niño. Dynamical models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that further warming of the tropical Pacific is likely in the coming months, with models approaching or exceeding El Niño thresholds during the southern winter.

Sea surface temperatures in the eastern Indian Ocean, to the south of Australia, and in parts of the Tasman Sea are currently warmer than normal, and are generally expected to remain warm through the forecast period. The warmer waters to the west of the continent may lead to increased evaporation and cloudiness, and hence a wetter than normal outlook for parts of the west. These warmer waters surrounding Australia are not typical of El Niño, and may be somewhat negating the effect of the developing El Niño on the eastern regions.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is expected to remain neutral for the next three months, and is therefore unlikely to have a significant influence upon this outlook.

How accurate is the outlook?

Outlook accuracy for the May to July period is:

  • Moderate over the southern NT and Queensland
  • Low to very low for the northern half of the NT