Mixed temperature outlook for northern Australia

Northern Aust Seasonal Temperature Outlook: probabilities for October to December 2010, issued 23rd September 2010

Mixed temperature outlook for northern Australia

The northern Australian outlook for maximum temperatures averaged over the December quarter (October to December), favours warm daytime temperatures in the northern half of northern Australia with cooler temperatures favoured for southern Queensland. The minimum temperature outlook also favours warm conditions for the far north coast of the NT and most of the Queensland coast.

The pattern of seasonal temperature odds across Australia is a result of recent warm conditions in the Indian Ocean as well as a cooling trend in the equatorial Pacific, both of which are associated with the current La Niña event.

The chance that the average October to December maximum temperature will exceed the long-term median maximum temperature, is above 60% for the northern parts of north Australia. These odds increase to over 75% in the far north of the NT and northern Queensland. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about seven to eight years would be expected to be warmer than average during the October to December period, with about two to three years being cooler.

In contrast, cooler daytime temperatures are favoured in southeast Queensland and with odds between 30 to 40%. This means that for every ten years with ocean patterns like the current, about six or seven years would be expected to be cooler while about three to four years would be warmer.

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

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect Australian temperatures. During October to December, history shows this effect on maximum temperatures to be moderately consistent across large parts of northern Australia, with the exception of the western border of the NT and the northern tip of Queensland, where it is only weakly consistent (see background information).

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

The average minimum temperature for October to December is also favoured to be above the long-term median minimum temperature, with odds of over 60% for the tropical north including the Queensland coast and southeast Australia. Odds increase to above 75% over northern Queensland. For the remainder of Australia the odds are mostly between 50 and 60%.

History shows the oceans' effect on minimum temperatures during October to December to be moderately consistent over most of Queensland and southern NT, but only weakly to very weakly consistent over parts of northern NT.


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 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



Corresponding rainfall outlook

Maximum temperature departures from average for June to August 2010 - base period 1961-1990

Minimum temperature departures from average for June to August 2010 - 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 past El Niño events since 1900 are summarized on the Bureau's web site (El Niño - Detailed Australian Analysis), and past La Niña events (La Niña - Detailed Australian Analysis)

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