Warmer than average season expected for northern Australia

Northern Aust Seasonal Temperature Outlook: probabilities for Autumn 2013, issued 20th February 2013

Warmer than average season expected for northern Australia

The northern Australian outlook averaged over March to May 2013 shows that:

  • warmer days are likely over the Top End and Cape York Peninsula
  • increased odds for cooler days across the southern borders of the NT and Queensland
  • above average minimum temperatures expected for most of Queensland

This outlook is mostly a result of warmer than normal waters in the Indian Ocean with near normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean also contributing.

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

The chances that the average March to May maximum temperature will exceed the long-term median maximum temperature are between 60 and 70% over the Top End and Cape York Peninsula (see map above). Such odds mean that for every ten years with similar ocean patterns to those currently observed, about six or seven March to May periods would be expected to be warmer than average over these areas, while about three or four years would be cooler for this time of year.

In contrast, there is a 25 to 40% chance of warmer than normal days over much of the Alice Springs district of the NT and across southern Queensland.

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

The chances that the average minimum temperature for March to May will exceed the long-term median minimum temperature are above 60% over most of Queensland and parts of Arnhem Land in the northern NT. The highest odds occur over eastern Queensland (see map above).

Outlook confidence is related to how consistently the Pacific and Indian Oceans affect north Australian temperatures. During March to May the statistical outlook model has shown moderate skill for most of northern Australia for maximum temperatures, but low skill in southwest Queensland (see background information).

However, the forecast skill for minimum temperatures during this season is moderately consistent over most of northern Australia.


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:

Darwin -(08) 8920 3813
Brisbane -(07) 3239 8660



Corresponding rainfall outlook

Maximum temperature departures from average for November 2012 to January 2013 - base period 1961-1990

Minimum temperature departures from average for November 2012 to January 2013 - 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.

  • Probability outlooks should not be used as if they were categorical forecasts. 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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