Northern Aust Seasonal Temperature Outlook: probabilities for Autumn 2008, issued 26th February 2008

Cooler autumn days and warmer nights favoured in parts of northeastern Australia

The northern Australian outlook for average autumn maximum temperatures (March to May) shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring cooler than normal conditions in southern Queensland. This is accompanied by a shift towards warmer minimum temperatures across much of Queensland.

The pattern of seasonal maximum temperature odds across northeastern Australia is a result of the combined effects from above average temperatures in the central to southeast Indian Ocean, and the cooler than average temperatures in the equatorial Pacific (La Niña).

Averaged over March to May, the chances are between 30 to 40% for above-normal maximum temperatures over the southern half of Queensland (see map). This means that below-normal maximum temperatures have a 60 to 70% chance of occurring. So for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven autumns are expected to be cooler than average over these parts of northeastern Australia, with about three or four being warmer. Elsewhere the odds are generally between 45 and 55% of exceeding the seasonal median. So the chances of being warmer than normal are about the same as the chances of being cooler.

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian temperatures. During autumn, history shows this effect on maximum temperatures to be moderately consistent over much of Queensland and the NT, apart from the southwestern corners in each State where it is only weakly or very weakly consistent (see background information).

In contrast, minimum temperatures averaged over autumn are favoured to be warmer than normal across most of Queensland (see map). The chances of increased overnight warmth (averaged over the coming three months) are mainly between 60 and 75% in this area. Across far-western Queensland and the NT the chances of the seasonal mean minimum being above the long-term average are typically between 40 and 60%.

History shows the oceans' effect on minimum temperatures during autumn to be moderately consistent over much of northern Australia, apart from the southern half of the NT and far southern Queensland where it is only weakly consistent.

probability of exceeding median maximum temperature - click on the image for a larger version of the map
probability of exceeding median minimum temperature - click on the image for a larger version of the map
 

Click on the maps above for larger versions of the maps. Use the reload/refresh button to ensure the latest forecast maps are displayed.

 

More information on this outlook is available Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm local time by contacting the Bureau's Climate Services sections in Queensland and the Northern Territory at the following numbers:

Brisbane -(07) 3239 8660
Darwin -(08) 8920 3813
 

THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE SEASONAL OUTLOOK IS EXPECTED BY 28th March 2008

Corresponding rainfall outlook

Maximum temperature departures from average for November 2007 to January 2008 - base period 1961-1990

Minimum temperature departures from average for November 2007 to January 2008 - base period 1961-1990

 

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 or from SILO (www.bom.gov.au/silo/products/SClimate.shtml).

  • 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. 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 23 El Niño events since 1900 are summarized on the Bureau's web site (www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/).