Seasonal climate outlook: September 2017 - November 2017

Overview

ENSO (El Niño – Southern Oscillation) neutral conditions were still present in the tropical Pacific during August 2017. However, like July, several oceanic and atmospheric patterns, such as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) and decreasing sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific, leaned toward La Niña. The latest weekly sea-surface and ocean subsurface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are slightly below normal (i.e. on the La Niña side of neutral). The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is currently positive (+0.4, i.e. on the La Niña side of neutral) and large-scale circulation anomalies along the equator are consistent with patterns usually associated with a La Niña state. On the other hand, La Niña-like rainfall and convection anomalies in the west Pacific were not as strong in August as they were in July.

International guidance favours a persistence of ENSO neutral conditions over the next three-month period (65% chance for September – November 2017). While ENSO-neutral conditions remain the most likely outcome through the end of 2017, recent observations indicate that the ocean and atmosphere may continue to periodically exhibit La Niña-like signatures.

For September – November 2017, the atmospheric circulation around New Zealand is forecast to be characterised by lower pressure than normal west of New Zealand and higher pressure than normal to the south and east of the country. This is expected to lead to northerly-quarter (ranging from northwest to northeast) flow anomalies over the next three months. Periodic easterly flow anomalies are also possible, consistent with a La Niña-like signal in the atmosphere. This type of atmospheric setup may lend itself to subtropical moisture connections associated with heavy rainfalls for New Zealand.

Meteorologist Ben Noll provides some insight on weather patterns from September - November 2017.

Outlook Summary

September – November 2017 temperatures are forecast to be above average for all regions of New Zealand (55% to 65% chance for above average temperatures). Nevertheless, frosts and cool snaps are still possible during spring. Coastal water temperatures around New Zealand are forecast to remain above average over the next three-month period.

September – November 2017 rainfall totals are about equally likely to be normal (35-40% chance) or above normal (35-40% chance) for the North Island and the north of the South Island and most likely to be near normal (45% chance) for all remaining regions of New Zealand.

September – November 2017 soil moisture levels and river flows are about equally likely to be near normal (35-40%) or above normal (35-40% chance) for the North Island and the north of the South Island. Soil moisture levels and river flows are most likely to be near normal (45% chance) in the east and west of the South Island.

Regional predictions for the September – November 2017 season

Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty

The table below shows the probabilities (or percent chances) for each of three categories: above average, near average, and below average. In the absence of any forecast guidance there would be an equal likelihood (33% chance) of the outcome being in any one of the three categories. Forecast information from local and global guidance models is used to indicate the deviation from equal chance expected for the coming three-month period, with the following outcomes the most likely (but not certain) for this region:

  • Temperatures are very likely to be above average (60% chance).
  • Rainfall totals are about equally likely to be in the above normal range (40% chance) or near normal range (35% chance).
  • Soil moisture levels and river flows are about equally likely to be above normal (40% chance) or near normal (35% chance).

The full probability breakdown is:

 

Temperature

Rainfall

Soil moisture

River flows

Above average

               60

40

40

40

Near average

30

35

35

35

Below average

10

25

25

25

Central North Island, Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu, Wellington

Probabilities are assigned in three categories: above average, near average, and below average.

  • Temperatures are very likely to be above average (60% chance).
  • Rainfall totals are about equally likely to be near normal (40% chance) or above normal (35% chance).
  • Soil moisture levels and river flows are about equally likely to be near normal (35-40% chance) or above normal (40% chance).

The full probability breakdown is:

 

Temperature

Rainfall

Soil moisture

River flows

Above average

60

35

40

40

Near average

30

40

40

35

Below average

10

25

20

25

Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa

Probabilities are assigned in three categories: above average, near average, and below average.

  • Temperatures are most likely to be above average (55% chance).
  • Rainfall totals are about equally likely to be above normal (40% chance) or near normal (35% chance).
  • Soil moisture levels and river flows are about equally likely to be in the near normal (40% chance) or above normal (35% chance) range.

The full probability breakdown is:

 

Temperature

Rainfall

Soil moisture

River flows

Above average

55

40

35

35

Near average

35

35

40

40

Below average

10

25

25

25

Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough, Buller

Probabilities are assigned in three categories: above average, near average, and below average.

  • Temperatures are very likely to be above average (60% chance).
  • Rainfall totals are about equally likely to be above normal (40% chance) or near normal (35% chance).
  • Soil moisture levels and river flows are about equally likely to be in the near normal (40% chance) or above normal (35% chance) range.

The full probability breakdown is:

 

Temperature

Rainfall

Soil moisture

River flows

Above average

60

40

35

35

Near average

30

35

40

40

Below average

10

25

25

25

West Coast, Alps and foothills, inland Otago, Southland

Probabilities are assigned in three categories: above average, near average, and below average.

  • Temperatures are very likely to be above average (65% chance).
  • Rainfall totals are most likely to be in the near normal range (45% chance).
  • Soil moisture levels and river flows are most likely to be in the near normal range (45% chance).

The full probability breakdown is:

 

Temperature

Rainfall

Soil moisture

River flows

Above average

65

30

30

30

Near average

25

45

45

45

Below average

10

25

25

25

Coastal Canterbury, east Otago

Probabilities are assigned in three categories: above average, near average, and below average.

  • Temperatures are very likely to be above average (60% chance).
  • Rainfall totals are most likely to be in the near normal range (45% chance).
  • Soil moisture levels and river flows are most likely to be in the near normal range (45% chance).

 The full probability breakdown is:

 

Temperature

Rainfall

Soil moisture

River flows

Above average

60

25

30

25

Near average

30

45

45

45

Below average

10

30

25

30

Seasonal Climate Outlook maps September - November 2017

Background

ENSO (El Niño – Southern Oscillation) neutral conditions persisted across the tropical Pacific during August 2017, but several oceanic and atmospheric indicators leaned toward La Niña. The SOI was, on average, positive during August (+0.4, i.e. on the La Niña side of neutral) and enhanced equatorial trade winds were reflective of a La Niña-like atmosphere.

Sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean continued to trend cooler during August 2017 in both the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. The latest monthly SST anomaly, ending 27th August 2017, in the NINO3.4 region (in the central Pacific) is currently 0.02°C (was +0.43oC last month). Slightly cooler than average waters are also present in the far eastern equatorial Pacific.

Subsurface ocean temperatures have also cooled compared to last month, with the latest weekly data showing weak negative anomalies extending from the surface to about 150 meters depth in both the central and eastern Pacific. This is another oceanic indicator leaning in the La Niña direction.

The preliminary [value estimated on the 30th of August] Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) for the month of August 2017 is positive at +0.4, i.e. on the La Niña side of neutral. The SOI has now been positive for the past 2 months.

Zonal wind anomalies along the equator were predominantly negative in the central and western equatorial Pacific during August, indicating enhanced trade winds: a pattern which is consistent with a positive SOI. However, rainfall and convection anomalies in the tropical Pacific were not as La Niña-like as they were in July. This was due to decreased convection over parts of the western Pacific and Maritime Continent associated with the Madden Julian Oscillation.

Nevertheless, the ENSO Precipitation Index (ESPI) is currently negative with a value near -1.2. The ESPI was near -1.7 during July. The negative values over the past two months are indicative of a La Niña-like state.  

In summary, while the ocean – atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific Ocean overall remains consistent with an ENSO-neutral state, La Niña-like signals became more prominent in the atmosphere during July and this trend continued during August 2017.

International guidance favours a persistence of ENSO neutral conditions over the next three-month period (65% chance for September – November 2017). The likelihood for La Niña peaks at 25% in the November 2017 – January 2018 period. While ENSO-neutral conditions remain the most likely outcome through the end of 2017, recent observations indicate that the ocean and atmosphere may continue to periodically exhibit La Niña-like signatures.

Coastal waters remain generally warmer than average all around the country and positive anomalies increased during the final week of August, especially near the eastern and northern North Island. The anomaly in the “NZ box” (160°E-170°W, 30-45°S) is currently nearing +0.6oC. Ocean waters are still much warmer than average across the Tasman Sea, particularly in the south and west. 

The dynamical models’ forecasts indicate that warmer than average SSTs around New Zealand are likely to persist over the September – November 2017 period. 

For comment, please contact

Chris Brandolino, Principal Scientist – Forecasting, NIWA National Climate Centre

Tel (09) 375 6335, Mobile (027) 886 0014

Dr Brett Mullan, Principal Scientist, NIWA National Climate Centre

Tel (04) 386 0508, Mobile (027) 294 1169

Notes to reporters and editors

  1. NIWA’s outlooks indicate the likelihood of climate conditions being at, above, or below average for the season as a whole. They are not ‘weather forecasts’. It is not possible to forecast precise weather conditions three months ahead of time.
  2. The outlooks are the result of the expert judgment of NIWA’s climate scientists. They take into account observations of atmospheric and ocean conditions and output from global and local climate models. The presence of El Niño or La Niña conditions and the sea surface temperatures around New Zealand can be a useful indicator of likely overall climate conditions for a season.
  3. The outlooks state the probability for above average conditions, near average conditions, and below average conditions for rainfall, temperature, soil moisture, and river flows. For example, for winter (June–July–August) 2007, for all the North Island, we assigned the following probabilities for temperature:
    ·  Above average: 60 per cent
    ·  Near average: 30 per cent
    ·  Below average: 10 per cent
    We therefore concluded that above average temperatures were very likely.
  4. This three-way probability means that a random choice would be correct only 33 per cent (or one-third) of the time. It would be like randomly throwing a dart at a board divided into three equal parts, or throwing a dice with three numbers on it. An analogy with coin tossing (a two-way probability) is not correct.
  5. A 50 per cent ‘hit rate’ is substantially better than guesswork, and comparable with the skill level of the best overseas climate outlooks. See, for example, analysis of global outlooks issued by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society based in the US published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (Goddard, L., A. G. Barnston, and S. J. Mason, 2003: Evaluation of the IRI’s “net assessment” seasonal climate forecasts 1997–2001. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 84, 1761–1781).
  6. Each month, NIWA publishes an analysis of how well its outlooks perform. This is available online and is sent to about 3500 recipients of NIWA’s newsletters, including many farmers.
  7. All outlooks are for the three months as a whole. There will inevitably be wet and dry days, and hot and cold days, within a season. The exact range in temperature and rainfall within each of the three categories varies with location and season. However, as a guide, the “near average” or middle category for the temperature predictions includes deviations up to ±0.5°C for the long-term mean, whereas for rainfall the “near normal” category lies between approximately 80 per cent and 115 per cent of the long-term mean.
  8. The seasonal climate outlooks are an output of a scientific research programme, supplemented by NIWA’s Capability Funding. NIWA does not have a government contract to produce these outlooks.
  9. Where probabilities are within 5% of one another, the term “about equally” is used.