Spring outlook tilts towards wetter conditions eventually

Prospects are improving for a wetter-than-average spring for coastal NSW but the shift away from the recent dry spell may not occur until later in the season, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

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The forecast comes as Australia closes out what is likely to be the country’s warmest winter on record for maximum temperatures.

In its latest update to its three-monthly outlook, the bureau said a strip of the eastern Australian coast from southern Queensland down to Victoria now had odds favouring better spring rains than usual.

The season, though, is likely to continue the trend of above-average temperatures for both day and night for much of south-eastern Australia and the northern third of the country, the bureau said.

“We’re expecting Sydney’s conditions to stay relatively dry for the first few weeks of September,” Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction services at the bureau, said.

“Certainly October is the period when we start to see the odds swing around” to wetter weather, he said.

Sydney’s near-term outlook points to the dry spell continuing, with rain only a 5 per cent chance for each day until next Thursday.

Sunday looks to be the pick of the week for those looking to wave winter goodbye, with 28 degrees forecast for the city and similar warmth in the west.

The absence of cloud cover means nights will remain on the cool side. Those preparing for Saturday morning outdoors can expect the mercury to start from a low of 7 degrees before topping out at 22 degrees on a sunny day.

A cold front moving through late on Sunday will knock daytime temperatures back down below average levels by early next week before they start to climb again by the following weekend,” Tom Gough, a Weatherzone meteorologist, said. Fire season watch

Winter was one of Australia’s driest on record, particularly in northern and eastern NSW.

That prompted the Rural Fire Service last week to bring forward the fire season in nine areas in the state, including Bathurst, Lithgow and the Blue Mountains, to September 1.

The bureau’s outlook for September rainfall alone (see chart below) points to a modest shift towards wetter-than-average conditions for a narrow band around Sydney.

The agency rates its model accuracy for spring rainfall predictions as “moderate”.

The bureau said that with the El Nino conditions in the Pacific neutral, the influence driving a tilt towards a wetter spell for much of the country is warmer-than-usual waters in the central Indian Ocean.

“With the circulation patterns expected, [and] high pressure favoured to the south of Australia, we will see a greater easterly flow across southern Australia,” Mr Gough said. “With these onshore winds in this pattern this would favour increased rainfall on the east coast, and drier in the west.”

This pattern will have a clearer impact for spring as a whole, as shown by the bureau’s rainfall projection chart below: Warm outlook

If fire authorities were hoping for cooler-than-usual conditions during spring to slow down the loss of fuel moisture, the seasonal outlook doesn’t offer much encouragement.

According to the bureau, the odds clearly favour above-average daytime temperatures for south-eastern and northern Australia.

This outlook is particularly true in September, especially for the eastern third of the continent and Tasmania. (See chart below of the chance maximum temperatures will be above average for the month.)

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