Climate outlook for December to February

Climate outlook overview

  • The summer (December 2018 to February 2019) climate outlook, issued 29 November 2018, indicates large parts of WA, Queensland and the Top End of the NT are likely to be drier than average. The rest of the country shows no strong push towards a wetter or drier than average season.
  • Warmer than average days and nights are likely for almost all of Australia for December to February.
  • Development towards El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean continues, with outlooks suggesting El Niño conditions are likely through the summer months. However, El Niño typically has a weaker influence on rainfall in southeastern Australia during summer than it does in winter and spring. 
  • The current positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has been a significant contributor to dry conditions in southeast Australia. However, models expect the positive IOD to follow its normal seasonal cycle, and decay by early summer. See the Climate Influences section for more information.

Drier than average summer likely for large parts of northern Australia

  • December to February is likely to be drier than average for large parts of WA, Queensland and the Top End of the NT. For the remainder of the country, there are roughly equal chances of a wetter or drier three months, i.e., no strong tendency towards a wetter or drier than average season ahead. This pattern is fairly typical of a summer El Niño event.
  • December is likely to be drier than average for most of western WA, and scattered parts of the northern NT and northern Queensland. Small areas of central Australia and the Eyre Peninsula in SA have a weak tendency towards a wetter than average month. 
  • Historical outlook accuracy for December to February is moderate to high across large parts of the country. However, much of the southern NT, western Queensland, and large areas surrounding the Great Australian Bight has low to very low accuracy. See map for more detail.

Warmer than average summer days and nights likely for Australia

  • Summer (December to February) days are very likely to be warmer than average, with probabilities exceeding 80% for almost the entire country. Along the far southern mainland coast, the chances of exceeding median daytime temperatures is closer to 70%. 
  • Summer nights are also very likely to be warmer than average across most of Australia, with chances of warmer than average nights exceeding 80% over most of the country. Far western WA is more likely to have cooler than average summer nights.
  • Historical accuracy for December to February maximum temperatures is high across most of Australia, but low in the central NT, and western Queensland. Minimum temperature accuracy is moderate to high for most of Australia, except the central NT and central to western parts of Queensland, where accuracy is low to very low.

Climate influences

  • Development towards El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean continues, with outlooks suggesting El Niño is likely to form during the summer months. In summer, El Niño typically brings drier conditions to parts of northern Australia, but tends to have less rainfall influence in the current drought areas of southeast Australia. El Niño also typically brings warmer than average days to large parts of the continent. The rainfall outlook favours drier conditions in the north but shows little shift away from 50-50 in the southern half of the country; this suggests the outlook is heavily based on the likely El Niño conditions. 
  • A positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event is currently dominating Australia's weather and climate patterns. However, the positive IOD is likely to decay by early summer, which is typical of its life cycle. During December to April, the IOD typically has little effect on Australian climate, and therefore is not expected to play a role over the coming summer.
  • In addition to the natural drivers such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the IOD, Australian climate patterns are being influenced by the long-term increasing trend in global air and ocean temperatures.
  • Bureau climatologists continually monitor the climate for any significant developments, with information on El Niño/La Niña and IOD events available fortnightly via the ENSO Wrap-Up. For a summary of Pacific and Indian Ocean outlooks, please see the Climate Model Summary.

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