Seasonal Climate Outlook

Recent climate

August rainfall in the SWLD was average to above average, with parts of the Great Southern and Esperance shire below average. Winter rainfall, June to August, was generally below average for the SWLD. Outlooks for winter from both the SSF and from the Bureau were for below average rainfall (see the June edition of the Seasonal Climate outlook).

The Bureau of Meteorology’s drought statement indicates areas in the northern and central wheatbelt have had serious to severe rainfall deficiency since March 2017.

Rainfall deficiency map from 1 March to 31 August 2017. This map indicates that northern and central agricultural areas of the Western Australian wheatbelt has serious to severe rainfall deficiency.
 Rainfall deficiency map from 1 March to 31 August 2017

In August, the SWLD maximum temperatures were near average and minimum temperatures were above average. The winter maximum temperatures for the SWLD was the fourth highest since records began in 1910.

In August the atmospheric pressure was lower than normal over the southwest, partly as a result of a low pressure system which brought wide-spread rain on 29 August, as well as frequent cold fronts during the month. Higher pressures are favoured south of Australia in September, meaning greater easterly flow across southern Australia. This would favour increased rainfall on the east coast, and drier conditions in the west (due to drier inland air moving over the SWLD and less onshore flow).

Cooler than normal Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures northwest and west of Western Australia have reduced the potential for cloud-band development.

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) remains neutral. All climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate the tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to stay ENSO-neutral for the rest of 2017.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral. Most climate models suggest a neutral IOD is likely to continue. However, two of six climate models surveyed suggest a positive IOD may develop during spring. Positive IOD events are typically associated with below average winter–spring rainfall, and increased spring–summer fire potential over central and southern Australia. See the Bureau of Meteorology’s IOD and Pacific Ocean interaction for details.

The Southern Annular Mode (SAM), also known as the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO), describes the north–south movement of the westerly wind belt that circles Antarctica, dominating the middle to higher latitudes of the southern hemisphere. SAM is currently positive and is expected to remain positive for the next two weeks. During a positive SAM event, the belt of strong westerly winds contracts towards the south pole. This results in weaker than normal westerly winds and higher pressure over southern Australia. A positive SAM has a weak influence on spring rainfall in SWLD.

The table below gives a summary of past month and three month south-west Western Australia (SWWA) climate conditions, and can be used as an indication of what is likely to occur in the near future, if climate conditions follow the current pattern.

Climate Indicator Past month Past three months
SWWA rainfall Average to above average Below average
SWWA mean temperature Above average Above average
SWWA atmospheric pressure Low Low
Indian Ocean sea surface temperature Cooler Cooler
El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Neutral Neutral
Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) Neutral Neutral
Southern Annular Mode (SAM) Positive Positive

Additional information