Seasonal Climate Outlook Message for February to May 2006

The bottom line

Storm rain welcome Dave McRae Qld DPI&F 15/02/06

Queensland has received some welcome rain since the start of the month. More is needed before above average totals for summer are recorded or before rain received to date could be called 'drought breaking'. Information from the Bureau of Meteorology www.bom.gov.au highlights that depending on location rainfall totals in excess of 50 mm to more than 600 mm are needed before average falls for our normal "wet season" (October to April) are recorded.

Compounding the dry conditions has been the unusually high temperatures recorded particularly throughout the Murray-Darling Basin and in SW Qld during December and January. December was the warmest December ever recorded for Queensland while January was the second warmest January experienced (January 1994 was the warmest). December/January together is by a large margin the warmest period experienced for Queensland.

This anomalous warmth has covered the whole of eastern Australia and has had a big impact on animal, pasture and crop production. January also saw the warmest nation wide minimum temperature on record.

There have been many record or near record daily temperatures recorded with maximum temperatures above 40 degree C common in many areas of the state. As an example, the February record maximum temperature for Queensland was 46.3 recorded on 16 February 2004 at Thargomindah Post Office. Before 2004, the previous record high was 45.9 at Birdsville on 1 February 1986. Both of these records have been surpassed with a recording of 46.5 degrees C at Ballera Gas Field to the west of Thargomindah on the 6 February.

These extreme temperatures follow on the key points of the 2005 Annual Australian Climate Summary from the Bureau of Meteorology which included that 2005 was the warmest year in Australia since widespread reliable temperature observations became available in 1910; since 1979 all but 4 years have been warmer than average in Australia; January to March 2005 was the 2nd driest on record across Australia; globally 2005 was amongst the 4th warmest years since records commenced in 1861 etc.

Some features of a weak La Niña (namely cool SST in the eastern and central Pacific) are currently present in the Pacific. These cool sea surface temperatures have developed so late in the season that any impact on rainfall in Australia is highly uncertain. Based on most climate model outputs, this pattern is unlikely to persist into winter, when the impacts for rainfall across Queensland would be greatest.

The latest rainfall probability maps are at www.dpi.qld.gov.au/climate and daily updates on the SOI are available on (07) 46881439. For more information call 132523 or (07) 3404 6999.

Last updated: 14 February 2006