Praying for winter rain? Don't hold your breath

By Greg Berghofer

TOOWOOMBA and district residents are looking to weather forecasters for some heartening rainfall predictions for the winter months, but there's no joy coming.

Meteorological data, in fact, indicates below-average rainfall is likely ? and that's in a season where rainfall is normally low in any case.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Tamika Tihema said the three-month outlook at the start of May was for an even-money chance of average rainfall for the Toowoomba region.

But the latest revised outlook, from June to August, indicates there will be a 60% to 70% chance of below- average winter rain.

This offers little hope of catch-up rain which is much needed after a very dry autumn.

Miss Tihema said Toowoomba received 29.4mm of rain in May, about half the long-term monthly average of 58.6mm. On May 1, 17.8mm fell at the official weather station at Toowoomba Airport, 0.6mm fell on the 16th and 11mm on the 23rd.

Miss Tihema said the temperature outlook for winter indicated minimums were likely to be average but there was a 65% to 70% chance the region south of a line from Charleville to Bundaberg would experience maximums above the long-term average.

And predictions from the DPI's Centre for Climate Application (CCA) are similar to those of the bureau.

The centre makes its predictions using the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), which is calculated from the monthly or seasonal fluctuations in the air pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin.

CCA's Dave McRae said the SOI was now in a rapidly falling phase and, comparing similar phases to historical rainfall records, pointed to a 60% to 80% chance the southern third of Queensland would get below?-average winter rainfall.

Meanwhile, winter has kicked off with a cold snap.

For the first day of winter yesterday, temperatures remained cold following some record seasonal lows in recent weeks.

Stanthorpe registered minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, Warwick minus 4.4 while Toowoomba recorded 6.6 at 5am yesterday.

The weekend, however, is expected to be even bleaker.

Forecaster Geoff Doueal said low cloud and south to south-westerly winds were expected to hit the Southern Downs in the latter part of tonight and into tomorrow. People under the cloud could expect some bleak weather, he said.

Stanthorpe's expected maximum tomorrow is 10 to 11 degrees. Toowoomba is expected to be not as cloudy and temperatures are expected to reach 15 to 17 degrees.

Mr Doueal said cloud was expected to clear on Sunday with temperatures one or two degrees warmer than tomorrow.

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