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Canberra set for a dry and warm winter

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Henry Belot and Peter Hannam

Canberra's winter is set to be warmer and drier than average.

Canberra's winter is set to be warmer and drier than average. Photo: Joseph Gasendo

The Canberra region is likely to experience a dry and warmer-than-average winter according to the latest seasonal outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology.

If accurate, the outlook for the July-August period will mean Canberra’s recent dry spell will continue in the coming months with temperatures remaining relatively warm throughout the day and night.

The outlook predicts a greater than 80 per cent chance of temperatures exceeding the average maximum temperature of 12.3 degrees during winter.

Canberra recorded the warmest winter on record in 2013 with an average maximum temperature of 14 degrees but also experienced the wettest winter since 2005 with 127.8mm of rain recorded between June and August.

Earlier this week, Canberra smashed as 67-year-old record for the warmest late-autumn fortnight when 16 consecutive with temperatures of at least 18 degrees were recorded.

But Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said Canberra is unlikely to beat the warmest May record due to a cold snap at the start of the month that brought frosts and freezing overnight temperatures.

“The warmest May on record was 2005 with an average maximum temperature of 18.4 degrees, while at the moment we’re running at an average of 17.4 degrees,” he said.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s manager of climate prediction services Andrew Watkins said the trends in Canberra reflect a trend across the entire nation.

“It’s definitely very warm right over the continent,” he said.

The seasonal outlook also predicted a drier than usual winter with a greater than 60 per cent chance the Canberra region would receive below average rainfalls.

If true, this prediction would result in the continuation of a dry spell that has seen only 14.4mm of rainfall so far this month, significantly below the May average of 47.5mm.

A key influence of the warmer, drier conditions is the El Nino weather pattern now forming in the Pacific.

While bureau climatologists have stressed an El Nino event is not yet certain, they note conditions similar – such as unusually warm, dry weather - are already evident across much of Australia.

“Just because we haven’t reached an El Nino, it doesn’t mean you can’t start to see some impact," said Mr Watkins. "It’s not like flicking a switch when you hit a magic number.”

During El Nino years, the eastern Pacific warms and reduces the temperature difference with western parts of the ocean.

Easterly trade winds slow or reverse and rainfall tends to shift away from eastern Australia, leading to hot, dry years and often active bushfire seasons.

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