Seasonal Climate Outlook Message for December 2003 to March 2004

The bottom line

El Nino Watch Initiated (01/12/03)

As has been highlighted recently, the key indicators in the Pacific Ocean now show the potential for the emergence of 'near El Niño' conditions over the next 3 to 8 months.

While it is too early to be definitive regarding climate conditions in 2004/2005, I suggest particularly close monitoring of key climate indicators (sea-surface and sub-surface temperatures, SOI, near-surface wind anomalies) and climate model outputs over the next 3 to 6 months.

As part of the DPIs' response to these changes we have initiated an "El Nino watch" and will regularly monitor any developments in the Pacific and pass on this information on as it becomes relevant.

Although the key period for the development of an El Nino event is still some time away, it could be useful for businesses that are adversely affected by these events to consider now what risk management strategies they could incorporate into their management plans if the likelihood of an El Nino event increases.

The full story

Climate Watch 01/12/03

SOI remains near zero

The monthly value of the SOI has remained stable from the end of October (minus 2.8) through to the end of November (minus 2.4). Based on the shift in value the SOI remains in a "Near Zero" phase.

For December to February there is a 40-60% chance of getting above the long term median rainfall across most of Queensland (refer to map). For example, Dalby on the Darling Downs has a 45% chance of getting above its long term December to February median rainfall of 240mm.

If you like to follow the fluctuations of the SOI, daily updates are also available on (07) 46881439.

When using probabilities or a percentage chance of something occurring (eg amounts of rain in a 3 months or a race horse winning), it is important to consider the opposing view. For example, Gayndah has a 70% chance of getting above 220mm for December to February. This also means that there is a 30% chance of not getting above 220mm.

Another way of looking at this is that in 7 years out of 10 (or around two thirds of years) with the current SOI pattern, Gayndah has received more than 220mm for December to February. Therefore in 3 years out of 10 (or around one third), Gayndah has gotten less than 220mm for this period.

As many people like to follow the historical SOI/rainfall patterns more closely, it can be useful to find out what rainfall and farming conditions where like in your area for December to February in the following years that also had a "Near Zero" phase at the end of November - 2002, 1996, 1995, 1990, 1987, 1985, 1983, 1980, 1979, 1978, 1968, 1967, 1966, 1958, 1954, 1953 and 1952.

Information on what rainfall patterns where like in those years is available at or in Australian Rainman.

The last passage of the MJO influenced our weather over the third week of November. It helped produce some very patchy but useful rainfall totals for those lucky enough to receive them across the southern half of Queensland. If it's timing remains current it would next be expected in late December.

Many people like to follow the timing of the MJO (also know as the 40day wave) as while it is a tropical phenomenon, it appears to indicate the timing of potential rainfall events (but unfortunately not rainfall amounts) over central and southern Queensland.

The MJO is simply a band of low atmospheric pressure originating off the east coast of central Africa travelling eastward across the Indian Ocean and northern Australia roughly every 30 to 50 days.

The latest version of 'Rainman StreamFlow' has recently been released. Many new features have been introduced and to highlight these advances free copies of this program that 'time out' in 12 months are available from Land and Water Australia on 1800 776 616 or at

An interesting site from the 'Climate Variability In Agriculture' (CVAP) research and development program is well worth looking at. It highlights some case studies on how producers and businesses have used (to varying levels of success) climate and weather information in their decision making processes.

For more information or assistance with any climate related issue contact us through the DPI Call Centre on 13 25 23.

Last updated: 30 November 2003