INCOMING: Warwick resident David Hockings snapped this shot of an approaching storm in Warwick last Wednesday.
INCOMING: Warwick resident David Hockings snapped this shot of an approaching storm in Warwick last Wednesday. Contributed

Summer outlook is hot and dry for the Downs

AS SUMMER officially dawns today, word is drier, hotter conditions, and a delayed wet season are just some of the El Nino weather patterns the Southern Downs will probably experience as it unfolds.

Following last Wednesday's release of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's climate outlook for summer, BOM senior meteorologist Pradeep Singh said the Southern Downs' chances of receiving above average rainfall from December through to February stood at just 40-45%.

"The outlook is based on the expectation of an El Nino pattern... which would mostly effect Queensland's south-east," he said.

"It means drier conditions, which mean less cloud cover, less humidity, less storm activity, but higher temperatures.

"Even though there's less storm activity there is a lot more energy so when storms do form there's a good chance they'll produce strong wind gusts and hail."

The high energy levels are generated by intense ground heat caused by reduced cloud cover which, when mixed with a south-easterly change, forces hot, moist air up into the atmosphere with great speed.

Adding to this summer's bleak outlook is the delay in the monsoonal weather that would traditionally hit the northern tropics around January and gradually work its way south.

"The last two years we failed to see the monsoonal weather fully and properly descending south," Mr Singh said. "We can expect a continuation of the same heat of recent weeks for another three or four weeks until we start to see decent thunderstorm activity."

Director of the International Centre for Applied Climate Sciences Professor Roger Stone said current weather conditions were borderline El Nino.

"We haven't passed that threshold... we're experiencing most of the symptoms but not all," he said.

El Nino patterns are determined by conditions in the central Pacific Ocean, where sea temperatures need to be at least half a degree above normal.

"We need both the ocean and atmosphere to come to the party but as far as we're concerned, being a full-blown El Nino weather pattern won't make much difference from current conditions," Professor Stone said.

"This time of year average rainfall patterns occur in just 20-30% of years - those are the odds... they're not good."

Looking ahead

  •  Warwick's chance of exceeding the average maximum temperature of 29.5 degrees is 70-75%.
  •  Chances of exceeding median rainfall of 235mm is just 40-45%.
  •  There is a 100% chance of at least 100mm; 91% chance of 150mm; 63% chance of 200mm; 32% chance of 250mm; 16% chance of at least 300mm; 2% chance of at least 400mm and 0% chance of receiving 500mm.