Climate Driver Update archive
Climate drivers in the Pacific, Indian and Southern oceans and the Tropics


Average of international model outlooks for NINO3.4

Average of international model outlooks for IOD


Sea surface temperature maps

Sea surface temperature maps are not available for forecasts before Spring 2018

Global sea surface temperature outlooks for the months and season ahead. Anomalies indicate the difference from normal.

Sea surface temperature maps (select map for larger view)

SST outlooks for the next 3 months

Pacific Ocean

ENSO is the oscillation between El Niño and La Niña states in the Pacific region. El Niños typically produce drier seasons, and La Niñas drive wetter years, but the influence of each event varies, particularly in conjunction with other climate influences.

NINO3.4 SST plumes from Bureau model forecasts, updated daily
Select to see full-size map of NINIO3.4 SST plumes from Bureau model forecasts, updated daily.

International climate model outlooks

Nino 3.4 2 month outlook
Graph details

The graphs are based on the ensemble mean for the most recent model run.

These graphs show the average forecast value of NINO3.4 for each international model surveyed for the selected calendar month. If the bars on the graph are approaching or exceeding the blue dashed line, there is an increased risk of La Niña. Similarly, if the bars on the graph are approaching or exceeding the red dashed line, there is an increased chance of El Niño.

Weekly sea surface temperatures

Graphs of the table values

Monthly sea surface temperatures

Graphs of the table values

5-day sub-surface temperatures

Monthly temperatures

Southern Oscillation Index

30-day SOI values for the past two years
Select to see full-size map of 30-day Southern Oscillation Index values for the past two years, updated daily.

Trade winds

5-day SST and wind anomaly from TAO/TRITON
Select to see full-size map of 5-day SST and wind anomaly from TAO/TRITON.

Cloudiness near the Date Line

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) compares sea surface temperatures. An IOD negative state, having warmer than average sea surface temperatures near Australia, provides more moisture for frontal systems and lows crossing Australia.

IOD SST plumes from Bureau model forecasts, updated daily
Select to see full-size map of IOD SST plumes from Bureau model forecasts, updated daily.

International models

Latest IOD outlook
Graph details

The graphs are based on the ensemble mean for the most recent model run.

Thse graphs show the average forecast value of the IOD index for each international model surveyed for the selected calendar month. If the majority of models are approaching or exceeding the blue dashed line, then there is an increased risk of a negative IOD event. If the majority of models are approaching or exceeding the red dashed line, then there is an increased risk of a positive IOD event.

The Southern Annular Mode, or SAM, refers to the north-south shift of rain-bearing westerly winds and weather systems in the Southern Ocean compared to the usual position.

The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is the major fluctuation in tropical weather on weekly to monthly timescales. It can be characterised as an eastward moving 'pulse' of cloud and rainfall near the equator that typically recurs every 30 to 60 days.

The SST map for February shows below average SSTs extending along most of the equator in the tropical Pacific Ocean, extending into the tropics south of the equator in the east of the basin and north of the equator in parts of the central Pacific. The strength of these anomalies has decreased across much of the basin compared to January, but was stronger in parts of the eastern equatorial Pacific.

SSTs were slightly warmer than average across much of the waters close to Australia.

February values of the three key NINO indices were: NINO3 −0.4 °C, NINO3.4 −0.7 °C, and NINO4 −0.8 °C.

The sea surface temperature (SST) map for the tropical Pacific Ocean for the week ending 28 March shows patchy cool anomalies remain along parts of the equator in the central to eastern Pacific, as well as in parts of the eastern Pacific north of the equator. The three NINO indices remain within the ENSO-neutral range.

Warm anomalies which recently emerged in part of the far western equatorial Pacific have strengthened over the past two weeks, including across the Maritime Continent and around much of Australia. Warm anomalies are also present in parts of the far east of the Pacific basin, including along some areas of the South American coastline in the tropics.

The latest values of the three NINO indices in the tropical Pacific for the week ending 28 March were: NINO3 −0.3 °C, NINO3.4 −0.4 °C, NINO4 −0.3 °C.

Persistent NINO3 or NINO3.4 values warmer than +0.8 °C are typical of El Niño, while persistent values cooler than −0.8 °C typically indicate La Niña.

The 30-day Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) for the 30 days ending 28 March was +0.5. The 90-day SOI value was +10.9. The 30-day value has remained within ENSO-neutral values over the past two weeks.

Sustained negative values of the SOI below −7 typically indicate El Niño while sustained positive values above +7 typically indicate La Niña. Values between +7 and −7 generally indicate neutral conditions.

Trade winds for the 5 days ending 28 March were stronger than average over much of the tropical Pacific around and west of the Date Line, and near average strength in the centre and east. Trade wind strength has increased compared to two weeks ago, likely related to the Madden–Julian Oscillation moving into the Australian region.

During El Niño there is a sustained weakening, or even reversal, of the trade winds across much of the tropical Pacific. Conversely, during La Niña, there is a sustained strengthening of the trade winds.

The Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) has moved into the Australian region at moderate strength and is expected to bring increased cloudiness and rainfall to far northern Australia and the broader Maritime Continent over the next week or two. This also brings an increased risk of tropical low/cyclone activity.

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Indian Ocean are warmer than average across nearly all of the basin. Warm SST anomalies to the west and northwest of Western Australia may be influencing local weather patterns.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral. The latest weekly value of the IOD index to 28 March was +0.22 °C.

All but one of the five surveyed climate models expect the IOD to remain neutral through autumn, with one touching on the negative threshold value during May. July values reach the negative threshold in three of the five models, indicating potential for negative IOD to develop. However model accuracy is generally lower at this time of year than at other times, so the current outlooks should be viewed with caution.

IOD events are typically unable to form between December and April. This is because the monsoon trough shifts south over the tropical Indian Ocean and alters wind patterns, preventing the IOD pattern from being able to form.

Cloudiness near the Date Line has generally been below average since early to mid-March 2020.

Equatorial cloudiness near the Date Line typically increases during El Niño (negative OLR anomalies) and decreases during La Niña (positive OLR anomalies).

The four-month sequence of equatorial Pacific sub-surface temperature anomalies (to 25 March) shows cooler than average water extending across the top 100 to 150 m of the sub-surface of the equatorial Pacific east of the Date Line. The strength and spatial extent of cooler than average water has decreased compared to February, in line with the break-down of the 2020–21 La Niña.

Warm anomalies persist across large parts of the column depth west of 160°W, with stronger anomalies west of the Date Line. These warm anomalies remain similar in strength compared to last month, but have extended farther eastward during March to date.

For the five days ending 28 March, sub-surface temperatures were close to average across most of the equatorial Pacific.

Weak warm anomalies persist between around 100 and 200 m depth in the central to western equatorial Pacific, reaching more than two degrees above average in the far west.

Areas of both cool and warm anomalies have decreased compared to two weeks ago.

The Bureau's ENSO Outlook has moved from LA NIÑA to INACTIVE as most El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicators have now returned to neutral levels. Climate model outlooks suggest the Pacific will remain at neutral ENSO levels at least until the winter.

Tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures have persisted at ENSO-neutral values for several weeks. Below the surface, much of the tropical Pacific is now at near average temperatures. Atmospheric indicators are also generally at neutral ENSO levels. The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is close to zero, while trade winds are currently being enhanced by the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO). Only cloudiness near the Date Line continues to show a weak La Niña-like signature.

These changes are consistent with climate model outlooks, which have indicated a return to ENSO neutral during the southern hemisphere autumn, with little indication of a return to La Niña patterns in the coming months. A return to ENSO neutral conditions in autumn is also typical of the life cycle of ENSO events. All models indicate ENSO will remain neutral until at least the end of the southern winter.

The Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) is currently the strongest climate driver influencing Australia. The MJO has moved into the Australian region at moderate strength and is expected to bring increased cloudiness and rainfall to far northern Australia and the broader Maritime Continent over the next week or two. This also brings an increased risk of tropical low/cyclone activity.

The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) is currently neutral and expected to remain neutral for the coming fortnight. A neutral SAM has little influence on Australian rainfall.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is also neutral. The IOD typically has little influence on Australian climate from December to April.

Climate change continues to influence Australian and global climate. Australia's climate has warmed by 1.44 ± 0.24 °C over 1910–2019, while recent decades have seen increased rainfall across northern Australia during the northern wet season (October–April), with more high-intensity, short-duration rainfall events. Southern Australia has seen a reduction of 10–20% in cool season (April–October) rainfall in recent decades.

The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) is currently neutral and expected to remain neutral for the coming fortnight. A neutral SAM has little influence on Australian rainfall.

During autumn SAM has less influence on rainfall than during other times of the year.

The 2020–21 La Niña has concluded. All of the international climate models surveyed by the Bureau anticipate NINO3.4 will remain neutral until at least the end of winter. The spread of the individual model outlooks shows neutral ENSO is by far the most likely scenario, with only a very small proportion of model runs indicating a return to La Niña conditions is possible later in 2021, and El Niño is very unlikely.

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