Australian summer still one of the warmest on record despite recent rain

Australia is shaping up to record one of its three warmest summers, despite weeks of rain around the country.

With just a few days of the season left, the Bureau says our recent rains still haven’t put us in the green, with totals still below average for the country as a whole.

Bureau climatologist Dr Andrew Watkins says to two sides of summer have been polar opposites.


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“At the start of summer, we saw both a very strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole and a near-record negative Southern Annular Mode, and that resulted in both the warmest and driest December on record, with significant fire weather throughout many parts of the country.

“In January we saw those two drivers return to neutral levels, plus a very late arrival of the northern monsoon which finally brought tropical moisture to the continent.

“As we often see once the monsoon arrives in the north, some of that tropical moisture was dragged south leading to some of the good recent rainfall over the country’s east.

“The rainfall helped contain many of the long-lived bushfires in the east and helped ease drought conditions in some locations. But many inland regions experienced only patchy rainfall and we still need to see sustained rainfall to relieve drought in many areas.

“Although the extra moisture and cloud moderated temperatures compared to the record warm December, January and February will still rank among the ten warmest on record for the country as a whole,” Dr Watkins said.

Looking ahead, it seems autumn will be warmer than usual as well.

The outlook is already indicating daytime and overnight temperatures will likely be above average for most of the country, though rainfall outlooks don’t seem to indicate wetter or drier pushes yet.

However Doctor Watkins says some parts of the tropical north may have a drier end to their wet season and parts of southern and south eastern Australia are showing a slightly increased chance of above average rainfall in the coming three months.

“The low likelihood of widespread above or below average rainfall is largely due to our significant climate drivers – such as ENSO or the IOD – being neutral. We’re not expecting these neutral patterns to change over the season.”

“Typically, in autumn our main climate drivers are resetting, which means they’re exerting less influence on our weather patterns.

“This means we can expect our weather over the coming month or two to be driven by more local conditions, and that makes the seven-day forecast an important tool for assessing upcoming rainfall.

“All international models analysed by the Bureau are currently showing our climate drivers in the Pacific or Indian Ocean remaining neutral in the coming months. By winter, we will have an even clearer indication if this will change, and hence what the weather will look like for the rest of 2020,” Dr Watkins said.

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