Seasonal Climate Outlook Temperature Archive

Frequently Asked Questions

Odds favour warmer than average winter - Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, National Climate Centre, Seasonal Temperature Outlook

Three-month Seasonal Climate Outlook Statement
Temperature probabilities for Winter 2003
Issued 15th May 2003

Odds favour warmer than average winter

The Bureau’s winter temperature outlook shows the odds for a warmer than average season are better than 50:50 over the entire country for both daytime and nighttime temperatures. The strongest swings in the odds are over the west and north of Australia.

For the June to August period the chances of above average seasonal daytime temperatures are over 60% across WA, the NT, most of Queensland and north and west SA. The highest probabilities are in western WA where they approach 80%. These probabilities have resulted from higher than average sea temperatures in the tropical Indian and western tropical Pacific Oceans.

So with climate patterns like the current, about 6 to 8 winters out of every 10 are expected to be warmer than average across the west and north of Australia, with about 2 to 4 out of 10 being cooler. The Bureau’s winter maximum temperature outlooks have moderate reliability over much of the country (see background).

The chances of above average seasonal minimum temperatures are between 60 and 80% across WA, the NT, Queensland and parts of northern NSW. Minimum temperature outlooks for winter have moderate to high reliability over the southern half of WA, Queensland, much of NSW and the east of the NT.

Regional versions of this media release are available in Portable Document Format (PDF):
| Qld | NSW | Vic | Tas | SA | WA | NT |

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. The Pacific has been cooling but remains warm in the west, whilst the Indian is warmer than average over large areas.
  • Model Reliability: Strong reliability 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). Low reliability means the historical relationship is weak.
  • 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 (EST) Monday to Friday:

Grant Beard on (03) 9669 4527
Blair Trewin on (03) 9669 4603
Janita Pahalad on (03) 9669 4859
Andrew Watkins on (03) 9669 4360

Regional commentary is available from the Climate and Consultancy sections in the Bureau's Regional Offices:

Queensland - (07) 3239 8669 or (07) 3239 8666
New South Wales - (02) 9296 1522
Victoria - (03) 9669 4949
Tasmania - (03) 6221 2043
South Australia - (08) 8366 2664
Western Australia - (08) 9263 2222
The Northern Territory - (08) 8920 3813


Archive of previous Seasonal Climate Temperature Outlooks

Archive of previous Seasonal Climate Rainfall Outlooks

Maximum Temperature departures from average for February to April 2003 - base period 1961-1990.

Minimum Temperature departures from average for February to April 2003 - 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 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 strongly negative SOI (below -10) is 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 strongly positive SOI (above +10) is 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.

El Niño & La Niña

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

La Niña 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 Niño.

See for more on SOI and El Niño.