Seasonal Climate Outlook Message for February to May 2003

The bottom line

Drought continues for some, Deluge for others. (Dated 21st February)

Much of Queensland has received some rain over the last couple of weeks. Falls have varied from in excess of 400mm for parts of central Queensland and the far north to less than 10mm in the form of patchy showers for parts of the Darling Downs and far west of the state.

Despite this recent rain, most of Queensland still has only received less than 60% of the long term average late spring/summer rainfall. Given the ongoing drier than average conditions it will be interesting to see when this pattern is likely to break.

There is increasing optimism that the El Nino pattern is starting to break down. While this is good news it's worth remembering that there remains around a 30% chance of El Nino regeneration in some form past autumn.

While this would not normally be considered a high risk, given the current shortage of available agistment, fodder, surface water and lack of crop planting opportunities in many areas it certainly should be taken into account in terms of any risk management strategy.

Any changes that occur in ocean and atmospheric patterns for the next few months are crucial. We will monitor this situation and make available information as soon as there has been a measurable breakdown of the El Nino.

The 30day average of the SOI continues to fall and as of the 21st February is minus 12.2. Despite this drop, rainfall probabilities for February to April remain the same.

Currently there is a 50-70% chance of getting above median rainfall from the north west of the state into the central west and for scattered areas along the coast. Rainfall probabilities across the rest of Queensland though, remain lower at around 30-50%.

While these probabilities do indicate the potential for some relief rain (eg 80% chance of getting above 100mm at Kingaroy for February to April) in the shorter term unfortunately there remains only a relatively low chance of getting those ongoing big, widespread, well above average rainfall events needed to break the current drought pattern.

An updated seasonal outlook for March to May will be issued in the first week of March.

Last updated: 20 February 2003