Climate outlook for December to March

Long-range forecast overview

  • December to February rainfall is likely to be below average across much of the north and west of Australia.
  • December to February maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to very likely to be above average for Australia.
  • December to February maximum and minimum temperatures are at least 2.5 times more likely than normal to be unusually high for much of Australia. Unusually high temperatures equate to the warmest 20% of December to February periods from 1981 to 2018.
  • The long-range forecast is influenced by several factors, including the active El Niño and positive Indian Ocean Dipole events, and record warm oceans globally.

Drier than median summer outlook for northern and western regions

  • For December, rainfall is likely (60 to 80% chance) to be below median for much of northern Australia, as well as parts of southern WA and SA.
  • For December to February, below median rainfall is likely (60 to 80% chance) for most of WA, northern and central NT, northern half of Queensland, and small areas of coastal NSW.
  • For December and December to February, large parts of inland Australia have a near equal chance of above or below average rainfall. However, if above average rainfall occurs, it is unlikely to be widespread.
  • Past accuracy of December to February long-range forecasts for the chance of above median rainfall is moderate to high for most of Australia, decreasing to low to very low for parts of southern and central Australia, and areas around the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Warmer December to February days and nights for almost all of Australia

  • For December, above median maximum temperatures are likely to very likely (60% to greater than 80% chance) for most of eastern and northern Australia, increasing to very likely (greater than 80% chance) for most of WA and SA.
  • For December to February, above median maximum temperatures are very likely (greater than 80% chance) for almost all of Australia.
  • For December, above median minimum temperatures are likely to very likely (60% to greater than 80% chance) for most of Australia except western parts of the Pilbara and Gascoyne districts in WA, and central coastal regions of Queensland.
  • For December to February, above median minimum temperatures are very likely (greater than 80% chance) for much of Australia.
  • For December to February, most of Australia is at least 2.5 times more likely than normal to experience unusually high maximum temperatures except for south eastern Australia. The chance of unusually high maximum temperatures increases to greater than 4 times more likely than normal for parts of western WA, and the far north of the NT and Queensland.
  • For December to February, most of Australia is at least 2.5 times more likely than normal to experience unusually high minimum temperatures. The chance of unusually high minimum temperatures increases to greater than 4 times more likely than normal for most of northern Australia (excluding central coastal Queensland) extending into the southern interior of WA. Unusually high temperatures equate to the warmest 20% of December to February periods from 1981 to 2018.
  • Past accuracy of the December to February long-range forecast for chance of above median maximum temperatures and above median minimum temperatures has been high to very high across almost all of Australia, excluding the interior of the NT.

Climate influences

The long-range forecast reflects known impacts from several significant climate drivers:

  • El Niño continues in the tropical Pacific. Models indicate some further warming of the central to eastern Pacific is possible, with SSTs remaining above El Niño thresholds into the early southern hemisphere autumn 2024. In summer, El Niño increases the likelihood of drier than average conditions for the north-east of Australia and warmer than average days across much of the eastern half of the country.
  • A positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event remains active. IOD events typically break down as the monsoon trough shifts south into the southern hemisphere, usually at the end of spring. Given the strength of this current event, the break down this year is likely to be slightly later than usual. Model forecasts suggest the positive IOD is likely to ease in December.
  • The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) index is neutral. Forecasts indicate it will remain neutral for the coming fortnight. During summer, a neutral SAM is associated with typical climate conditions for Australia.
  • Australia's climate has warmed by ~1.48 °C since 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events. In recent decades, there has also been a trend towards a greater proportion of rainfall from high intensity short duration rainfall events, especially across northern Australia during their wet season.

The Bureau's climate model simulates the physics of atmospheric, oceanic, ice, and land surface processes and uses millions of observations from satellites as well as in-situ instrumentation on land and at sea. These simulations enable the model to account for the influence of climate change and natural climate drivers like ENSO, IOD, the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) and SAM in its long-range forecasts.

Product code: IDCKOATCO2