11 July 2007

Predicting Rain

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology announced its long range rainfall prediction today, (El Nino Southern Oscillation (ELSO) Wrap-Up). After years of dry weather, rain is expected. Anyone arriving in the next couple of weeks should make sure to pack a good coat and umbrella. Don't expect to buy them here because the shops are running out of winter stock.

The Bureau will be updating a range of predictors such as Tropical Pacific water temperatures, cloudiness near Peru and strength of Trade Winds in the Pacific are used to predict whether Australia is heading for drought (El Nino), floods (La Nina) or a normal year. A month ago, the Bureau was cautiously predicting wet La Nina conditions for 2007-8. With floods in southern NSW and Eastern Victoria since then, it seemed that La Nina was on the way, but the Bureau is even more cautious now. The floods may have caught the news, but the total rainfall is still about average and some areas of eastern Australia have had less than average rainfall for the month.

A La Nina year would have an enormous impact throughout the Eastern half of Australia. In the cities, massive rainfall could mean water restrictions are removed, meanwhile city and country alike have been turning green as normal rain has resumed. In country areas, reservoirs and dams are severely depleted and farmers are hoping for signs that autumn plantings will not be wasted, there will be enough grass to feed livestock and irrigation can be maintained over summer. Rain continuing through spring and summer would also be good news for fire fighters, as the eucalypt forests which cover large parts of eastern Australia more flammable when dry.

La Nina is looking less likely now, but visitors should still expect cold, cloudy weather with lots of rain over the next few months, with a good ski season on the Victorian and NSW mountains.

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