South Australia

Seasonal climate risk information for South Australia

Volume 3 | Issue 1 | 12 February 2020

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We are describing the cropping areas of South Australia broadly as south of a line starting at Ceduna to Pt Augusta and down to Renmark. Uses of the terms east and west in this region refer to Port Augusta as a reference, or north and south of Adelaide. Local regions will be used if the models are more specific.

The +IOD and the -SAM that conspired to give eastern Australia very dry and hot weather in December both died around new year. The northern wet season which had been inhibited by these drivers at that time was then able to kick off. Since then, summer weather has been a bit erratic.

At the moment, both the El Nino Southern Oscillation and the Indian Ocean Dipole are in neutral phases as is normal for now. We reach the dodgy time of the year where random things can happen to push them in a direction for winter, with limited predictability. Ocean temperatures to our north are generally much warmer, which instigates greater evaporation. Models agree that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are likely to stay warmer for the next three months to the north of Australia.

We currently have enhanced cloud formation over the Coral Sea to the north-east of Australia. This is providing a good moisture source but only if the right triggers drift past. Decreased cloud to our north and increased pressure, are a hang-over from mid-January, where more recent measurements of cloud at least, are closer to normal. The higher pressure north of Darwin is normally not a good omen for moisture transport.

The Southern Annular Mode is now behaving itself, bouncing around from weakly positive to weakly negative. This would be expected to have little influence on SA’s climate.

Pressure has been lower due to the positioning of large stable highs to our west and east. If this pattern continues, we could expect some more humid and unstable weather.

For the next three months models are in agreement that no major climate factors are influencing the rainfall or temperature predictions at the moment. They are firmly sitting on the fence for any outcome is possible and as such, it is best to use long term climate records which show equal chances of drier, average or wetter, cooler average or warmer. Such predictions are common at this time of the year.

Do you want to hear the latest science, insights and innovations happening in the climate and agriculture space? Then the 2020 Climate Webinar series is where you will hear from the experts from Agriculture Victoria, BoM, CSIRO and other agencies.  The series will run during lunchtime or you also have the option to listen to recordings at a time that suits.  For more information and to subscribe to keep up-to-date with these upcoming climate webinars visit: or email

Soil moisture

map of SA showing soil moisture probes measurements.

The BoM Australian Water Resources Assessment (AWRA) modelled plant available soil moisture (10-100cm) shows a few wetter patches in the far mid north and the Mallee. The soil moisture probes (courtesy of NR-SAMDB, EPARF, SARDI, AgByte and MFMG) show a number with significant increases for the month due to stormy rainfall and this built on the November increases on the EP. Pinnaroo increased by 59% and Jamestown by 55%. Useful amounts of stored soil moisture exist across the wheat belt, if the weeds can be kept at bay.

Model distribution summary for the next three months

Graphs showing the distribution of global model forecasts for December-February, with models showing increased chances of drier rainfall and warmer temperature.

Model distribution summary for the next four to six months

Graphs showing the distribution of March-May forecasts with models showing increased chances of average rainfall and warmer/average temperatures.

Model consensus forecast for the next six months

Current outlook (to 11 February)

Previous outlook (to 29 November)





Pacific Ocean

Slightly warm

Slightly warmer/ slightly cooler



Indian Ocean

Slightly warm

Slightly warm

Cold (+IOD)





Slightly drier




Average/ slightly warmer

Slightly warmer

Slightly warmer

Sea surface temperature anomalies

Equatorial Pacific Ocean Sea surface temperatures and the IOD are at neutral levels.

The +IOD finally broke down in the first week of January which was historically very late. Current values of the Dipole Mode Index are -0.06oC (as of 11 February) which are totally neutral. This is to be expected for this time of the year. Sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies along the Equatorial Pacific have slightly cooled over summer to remain at neutral temperatures. NINO3 is at +0.11oC and NINO3.4 is +0.24oC (as of 11 February). The Coral, Arafura and Timor Seas to our north are warmer than normal and evaporating more moisture. If the right trigger can be received summer rainfall is possible.

Equatorial pacific sub-sea temperature anomalies

Equatorial undersea temperature anomalies in the Pacific have shown little change for some months.

The Pacific Ocean Equatorial sub-surface temperatures anomalies have changed little over the last three months.  A warm patch exists below the western Pacific, which could be vulnerable to reversed trade winds pushing it under and over to South America.

Southern oscillation index

The SOI value is currently at +0.1 (as at 11 February).

The SOI has been in neutral territory for the last three months. The value is currently neutral at +0.1 (as at 11 February). In summer, the SOI is a less reliable indicator, due to large swings in local pressure at Darwin and Tahiti when cyclones occur.

Pacific ocean surface wind anomalies

The Equatorial trade wind are reversed off PNG but are stronger in the Central Pacific.

The Equatorial Pacific Easterly Trade Winds have shown stronger easterly behaviour in the Central Pacific.  Paradoxically there is some reversal to westerly off Papua New Guinea. The convergence of these two is causing greater cloud formation.

World cloudiness anomalies

Cloud is abundant over the Dateline and lacking to the north of Australia.

Cloud at the International Dateline (180oW) junction with the Equator is much greater (blue colour) which is suggestive of El Niño, but the projection of greater cloud further west into the Coral Sea is not in keeping with El Niño. The lack of cloud (brown colour) over Indonesia still shows some hang over from the +IOD pattern of last year. Greater cloud over eastern Australia has been from moisture streaming in from the warm Coral Sea.

Southern annular mode

the SAM had spent most of November in strong negativity.

The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) or Antarctic Oscillation (AAO) was negative into December but has remained close to normal during January and into February. The SAM historically has a variable effect on SA over summer. NOAA predicts that for the next 14 days the SAM will have a small negative burst. Once we reach autumn SAM also has a variable effect on SA climate.

Air pressure

the STR of high pressure has been slightly higher than its normal summer position of Melbourne.

In the past 30 days, the Sub Tropical Ridge of High Pressure (STR) has been slightly north of the normal summer position of Melbourne. This has been allowing a few rain events through the SE and KI. We have been situated between two high pressure systems which has been moderating the extremes of climate. There has been more troughing of moisture from the north.

Air pressure anomalies

Pressure at Darwin and Tahiti is slightly higher which is why the SOI is neutral. Victoria has seen lower than average pressure.

The Sub Tropical Ridge of High Pressure has been lower over SE Australia, indicating more opportunity for rainfall and unstable weather. Pressure at Darwin and Tahiti is slightly higher which is why the SOI is neutral. Slightly higher pressure to our tropical north is linked to the lack of cloud in that region too.

Modelled Climate and Ocean Predictions for South Australia from January 2020 run models

12 climate models show their predictions for the next six months for the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, rainfall and temperature for Tasmania

Click here to download this table in MS Word format
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