Southeastern Aust Seasonal Temperature Outlook: probabilities for May to July 2009, issued 24th April 2009

Warmer nights favoured in northern NSW

For southeastern Australia, the outlook for minimum temperatures averaged over the late autumn to mid-winter period (May to July) shows a moderate shift in the odds favouring above average temperatures over northern NSW. However, there are only weak shifts in the odds as far as daytime maximum temperatures are concerned.

The pattern of seasonal temperature odds across southeast Australia is mostly a result of warm conditions in the Indian Ocean in January and March, with the Pacific Ocean having very little effect at all.

The chances of exceeding the median maximum temperature for the May to July period are around 50 to 60% for all of SE Australia. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about five or six years would be expected to be warmer than average, while four or five would be expected to be cooler.

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian temperatures. During the May to July period, history shows this effect on maximum temperatures to be strongly consistent over Tasmania, the southeast districts of SA and most of Victoria, and moderate over the rest of the southern half of SA, and over southern and inland NSW, apart from the northwest (see background information). However, confidence levels are low in northern SA and in the northwest of NSW, and along the coast and adjacent ranges north from Sydney, so this outlook should be used with caution in those areas.

The outlook for May to July mean minima shows a 60 to 70% chance for higher than normal seasonal average temperatures in northern NSW. So for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven May to July periods are likely to be warmer than normal over this part of southeastern Australia, with about three or four being cooler.

History shows the oceans' effect on minimum temperatures in the May to July period to be moderately to strongly consistent over northern and especially northeastern NSW, and moderately consistent over the remainder of NSW (apart from the southwest), Tasmania and in patches along the coast of both Victoria and SA. Elsewhere the effect is only weakly or very 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
 

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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, NSW, SA, Victoria and Tasmania at the following numbers:

Sydney -(02) 9296 1555
Adelaide -(08) 8366 2664
Melbourne -(03) 9669 4949
Hobart -(03) 6221 2043
 

THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE SEASONAL OUTLOOK IS EXPECTED BY 26th May 2009

Corresponding rainfall outlook

Maximum temperature departures from average for January to March 2009 - base period 1961-1990

Minimum temperature departures from average for January to March 2009 - 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 25 El Niño events since 1900 are summarized on the Bureau's web site (www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/).