Northern Aust Seasonal Temperature Outlook: probabilities for January to March 2009, issued 17th December 2008

Warmer than average March Quarter favoured in the north

The northern Australian outlook for daytime temperatures averaged over the March quarter (January to March) shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring warmer than normal conditions over the tropical north. The odds favouring warmer nights are similar, but are stronger and the region extends further south in the NT.

The pattern of seasonal temperature odds across Australia is mostly a result of continued warmth in the central Indian Ocean.

The chance of exceeding the median maximum temperature during the March quarter is between 60 and 70% for northern Queensland and northern NT. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven years are expected to be warmer than average over these areas of northern Australia, while about three or four years are expected to be cooler.

Across the rest of the region, the chances of a warmer than average summer are between 40 and 60%, indicating roughly equal chances of warmer or cooler than normal conditions.

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian temperatures. During the March quarter, history shows the effect on maximum temperatures to be moderately consistent over most of the region, except for southwestern parts of the NT, where the effect is weak (see background information).

The chance of the average minimum temperature exceeding the median during the March quarter is between 60 and 75% for most of the Northern Territory and northern Queensland. The odds increase to 75 to 80% over Cape York Peninsula. Across southern Queensland and the southeast corner of the NT, the chances of warmer than average overnight temperatures are between 40 and 60%, indicating roughly equal chances of warmer or cooler than normal conditions.

History shows the oceans' effect on minimum temperatures during the March quarter to be moderately consistent over most of the region.

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
 

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More information on this outlook is available by contacting the Bureau's Climate Services sections in Queensland and the Northern Territory at the following numbers:

Brisbane -(07) 3239 8700
Darwin -(08) 8920 3813
 

THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE SEASONAL OUTLOOK IS EXPECTED BY 22nd January 2009

Corresponding rainfall outlook

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

Minimum temperature departures from average for September to November 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/).