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

Warmer than normal nights favoured in WA

The WA outlook for daytime temperatures averaged over the March quarter (January to March) shows roughly equal chances of warmer or cooler than normal conditions across WA, whilst overnight temperatures are more likely to be warmer than normal for most of WA.

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

The chances of exceeding the median maximum temperature during the March quarter are between 40 and 60% across most of the state, indicating that above average daytime temperatures are about as equally likely as below average maxima.

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 large areas of WA, however it is weak or very weak in parts of western, and eastern WA (see background information).

The chances of exceeding the median minimum temperature during the March quarter are between 60 and 70% for most of the state. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven years are expected to have above average overnight temperatures in these regions, while about three or four years are expected to be below average.

For small parts of the state, particularly the southeast and far southwest, the chances of warmer than average overnight temperatures are between 50 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 large areas of northern WA, near the west coast, and in the southeast. Elsewhere the effect shows weak to very weak consistency.

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 from 8.30am to 4.30pm (WST) Monday to Friday by contacting the Climate Services Centre in the Bureau's Perth Office: (08) 9263 2222.
 

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/).