National Seasonal Temperature Outlook: probabilities for Spring 2009, issued 26th August 2009

Warmer than normal spring indicated for Australia

The national outlook for maximum and minimum temperatures averaged over spring (September to November), shows that warmer than average conditions are favoured for Australia.

The pattern of seasonal temperature odds across Australia is a result of recent warm conditions in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The chance that the average spring maximum temperature will exceed the long-term median maximum temperature, is above 60% across most of the continent, with 70 to 85% chances across Queensland and the north of the NT.

This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six to eight would be expected to be warmer than average during spring over most of Australia, with about two to four years being cooler.

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian temperatures. During spring, history shows this effect on maximum temperatures to be moderately consistent across large parts of the country, with the exception of the southeast and far west where it is only weakly consistent (see background information). Users therefore need to be cautious in applying this outlook in the western half of WA and southeastern Australia.

The outlook for spring mean minimum temperatures is broadly similar, although the highest probabilities are located in the west. Apart from Tasmania and areas east of the Great Divide, the chance of a seasonal average above the long-term median minimum temperature is between 60 and 80%, with values above 80% in parts of WA and the western NT.

History shows the oceans' effect on minimum temperatures during spring to be moderately to highly consistent over most of the country, except in parts of southeast and eastern Australia where the effect is generally 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

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The following climate meteorologists in the National Climate Centre can be contacted about this outlook: Grant Beard on (03) 9669 4527, Karl Braganza on (03) 9669 4344, David Jones on (03) 9669 4085.

Regional versions of this media release are available: | Northern Aust | Southeastern Aust | WA |

Regional commentary is available from the Climate Services Sections in the Bureau's Regional Offices:

Queensland -(07) 3239 8660
New South Wales -(02) 9296 1555
Victoria -(03) 9669 4949
Tasmania -(03) 6221 2043
South Australia -(08) 8366 2664
Western Australia -(08) 9263 2222
The Northern Territory -(08) 8920 3813


Corresponding rainfall outlook

Maximum temperature departures from average for May to July 2009 - base period 1961-1990

Minimum temperature departures from average for May to July 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 (Seasonal Climate Outlook Products).

  • 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 (El Niño - Detailed Australian Analysis).