Seasonal Climate Outlook Message for January to April 2002

The bottom line

SOI pattern continues to give mixed outlook. (Dated 16th January 2002)

The 30day average of the SOI as of the 16th January 2002 is -3.6.

The recent pattern of the SOI indicates rainfall probabilities, especially across western and central Queensland, will remain relatively high for the time being. Areas that have relatively high probabilities (60% to 90%) of getting above median rainfall for January to March include a strip running from Bourke and the western half of Dalrymple shires in the north through to the Waroo, Bungil and Yuleba shires in the south. Cairns, Douglas and Cook shires also have relatively high rainfall probabilities.

The down side of the recent shift in value of the SOI is that rainfall probabilities have fallen once again across south east Queensland. This area includes the eastern Darling Downs and Burnett regions. Rainfall probabilities also remain relatively low in parts of the Croydon, Etheridge, Richmond, Emerald, Bauhinia and Duaringa shires.

As always when dealing with probabilities it is important to remember that the opposite always applies. For example, currently there is only a low 33% chance of getting above the long term January to March median rainfall of 330 mm at Crow's Nest. Therefore there is a 67% chance of getting below the long term January to March median rainfall. Another way of looking at this is that only in one third of years with the current SOI pattern was there above median rainfall for January to March. Therefore in two thirds of years historically there was below median rainfall.

Given the recent publicity in the general media about the potential development of an El Niño around autumn 2002 I would like to highlight our recommendation to keep track of the sea surface temperature patterns and any shifts in the monthly value of the SOI over the next few months.

However it must be stressed that it is still early days especially given the volatility of climate patterns over autumn. Therefore while sea temperature patterns in the Pacific are currently "primed" in a classic pre-El Niño pattern, there is still a fair way to go before an El Niño develops. In the mean time QCCA staff will continue to monitor the situation closely. It may also be a suitable time for readers to consider what repercussions an El Niño could mean to their businesses.

Last updated: 15 January 2002