MELBOURNE, Australia – The 2021–22 La Niña continues in the tropical Pacific, with little change in strength in the past few weeks, reports the latest climate driver update from the Bureau of Meteorology of the Australian Government. Several indicators of La Niña, including tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures, cloudiness near the Date Line, and the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), have maintained or slightly increased their strength over the past fortnight.
However, beneath the surface of the tropical Pacific, waters have warmed closer to neutral El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) levels.
Most climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate a return to neutral ENSO by the early southern hemisphere winter. Only one of seven models continues La Niña conditions through the southern winter. La Niña conditions increase the chances of above average rainfall for much of eastern Australia, while neutral ENSO has little influence on rainfall patterns.
The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral. All climate model outlooks surveyed suggest a negative IOD may develop in the coming months. While model outlooks have low accuracy at this time of year and hence some caution should be taken with IOD outlooks beyond May, there is strong forecast consistency across international models. A negative IOD increases the chances of above average winter–spring rainfall for much of Australia. It also increases the chances of warmer days and nights for northern Australia.
The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) index is currently positive and is forecast to remain positive for the coming four weeks. During autumn SAM typically has a weaker influence on Australian rainfall, but as we approach winter, positive SAM often has a drying influence for parts of south-west and south-east Australia.
The Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) has recently strengthened in the western Indian Ocean. Most climate models indicate the MJO will briefly weaken, and then re-strengthen again later this week in the Maritime Continent or western Pacific region. Should the MJO re-strength in the Maritime Continent region, it can enhance rainfall in north-eastern Australia. It also typically increases cloudiness to Australia’s north.
Climate change continues to influence Australian and global climate. Australia’s climate has warmed by around 1.47 °C for the 1910–2020 period. Southern Australia has seen a reduction of 10–20% in cool season (April–October) rainfall in recent decades. There has also been a trend towards a greater proportion of rainfall from high intensity short duration rainfall events, especially across northern Australia