Seasonal Climate Outlook Temperature Archive

Frequently Asked Questions

Warmer in the north, cooler in the south - Bureau of Meteorology, National Climate Centre, Seasonal Temperature Outlook

Three-month Seasonal Climate Outlook Statement
Temperature probabilities for January to March 2003
Issued 17th December 2002

Warmer in the north, cooler in the south

Seasonal temperature odds show moderate to large swings towards warmer than average daytime temperatures in the north of the country, but an increase in the likelihood of a cooler than average season in southern areas, according to the National Climate Centre.

For the January to March period the chances of above average seasonal maximum temperatures increase northwards from near 60% along a line joining Derby (WA) and Newcastle (NSW) to near 80% around the Gulf of Carpentaria and in central Queensland. These probabilities have resulted from higher than average sea temperatures across the tropical Pacific Ocean.

So with climate patterns like the current, about 7 seasons out of every 10 are warmer than average across these parts of northern and eastern Australia, with about 3 out of 10 being cooler. Furthermore, the statistical outlook model has moderate to high reliability in these areas for the January to March period.

In contrast, the chances of BELOW median seasonal maximum temperatures are between 60 and 65% across Victoria, Tasmania and southern SA, but the outlook model has only modest levels of skill.

The chances of above average seasonal minimum temperatures are between 60 and 80% across the northern half of Australia, and minimum temperature outlooks for this period have moderate to high reliability over these same areas.

Background Information:

  • These outlooks are for the average maximum and minimum temperatures for the entire outlook period. Information about whether individual days or weeks may be unusually hot or cold, is unavailable.
  • This outlook uses data from both the Pacific and Indian Oceans, with the Pacific having the stronger influence on the outlook probabilities for both maximum and minimum temperatures.
  • This outlook represents a summary: more detail is available from the contact people or from SILO.
  • Important: 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.

For more information regarding this outlook please contact the following climate meteorologists in the National Climate Centre from 9:00am to 5:30pm (EDT) Monday to Friday:

Grant Beard on (03) 9669 4527
David Jones on (03) 9669 4085
Blair Trewin on (03) 9669 4603 (Mobile: 0419 587174)
Neil Plummer on(03) 9669 4086 (Mobile: 0419 117865 from 9am to 7pm)


Archive of previous Seasonal Climate Temperature Outlooks

Archive of previous Seasonal Climate Rainfall Outlooks

Maximum Temperature departures from average for spring 2002 - base period 1961-1990.

Minimum Temperature departures from average for spring 2002 - base period 1961-1990.

probability of exceeding median
maximum temperature - click to enlarge
Figure 1: Maximum Temperature - Click on the map for full resolution.

probability of exceeding median
minimum temperature - click to enlarge
Figure 2: Minimum Temperature - Click on the map for full resolution.

Frequently Asked Questions

A: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 rainfall and sea surface temperature records. They are not, however, categorical predictions about future rainfall, and they are not about rainfall within individual months of the three-month outlook period.

A:Being above or below the MEDIAN rainfall, MEDIAN maximum temperature, or MEDIAN minimum temperature over the three-month outlook period.
The median is the middle value in the historical record for the period in question. In the long term, rainfall or temperature are above median in one half of years, and below median in the other half.
Example 1: For the July to September period at Mackay in Queensland, one-half of 3-month rainfall totals have been below 80mm, and one-half have been above. If rainfall was above 80mm in that period it would be "wetter than average" or above median. Over the long haul there is a 50% chance of this occurring. In terms of odds this is even money.
Example 2: In Sydney, one-half of summers (Dec-Feb) have a mean maximum temperature above 25.7°C, with the other half being below. Therefore 25.7°C is the median.
Note that the mean or average maximum temperature is the average of all the daily highest temperatures for the period.
Similarly, the mean or average minimum temperature is the average of all the daily lowest temperatures for the period

A: 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.

A: Very unlikely. There is a certain level of natural variability in the climate which is chaotic and unpredictable. This is particularly the case with rainfall. For example, rainfall in a season can be significantly above average in one region, and significantly below average less than 50km away.

A: As another 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 will outweigh the disadvantages. For more information on the use of probabilities, farmers could contact their local departments of agriculture or primary industry.

Definitions and Explanations....

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 Niņo or La Niņa events in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It is best considered in conjunction with sea-surface temperatures, which form the basis of the outlooks.

A strongly negative SOI (below -10) is characteristic of El Niņo, which is often associated with below average rainfall over eastern Australia, and a weaker than normal monsoon in the north.

A strongly positive SOI (above +10) is characteristic of La Niņa, 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.

El Niño & La Niña

El Niņo translates from Spanish as "the boy-child", and refers to the extensive warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.

La Niņa translates from Spanish as "the girl-child", and refers to the extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. The term has recently become the conventional label for the opposite of El Niņo.

See for more on SOI and El Niņo.