El Nino/Southern Oscillation and Australian rainfall, streamflow and drought: Links and potential for forecasting

Document Type



El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been linked to climate anomalies throughout the world. This paper presents an overview of the relationship between ENSO and rainfall, drought and streamflow in Australia. The teleconnection between ENSO and the hydroclimate of Australia is investigated using the empirical method of Ropelewski and Halpert and the potential for forecasting the hydroclimate variables are investigated by assessing the lag correlations between rainfall and streamflow and the indicators of ENSO several months earlier. The analyses show that dry conditions in Australia tend to be associated with El Nino. The link between rainfall and streamflow and ENSO is statistically significant in most parts of Australia, but it is not sufficiently strong to consistently predict rainfall and streamflow accurately. The teleconnection is stronger in the latter part of the year, and the analyses suggest that the indicators of ENSO can be used with some success to forecast spring rainfall in eastern Australia and summer rainfall in north-east Australia several months in advance. The ENSO indicators can also be used to help forecast spring runoff in south-east Australia and summer runoff in the north-east and east coasts of Australia. Unlike rainfall, the serial correlation in the streamflow data is generally similar or higher than the lag streamflow-ENSO correlation, and it must be used together with the ENSO indicators in developing streamflow forecast models. The seasonal forecasts of rainfall and streamflow are invaluable to the management of land and water resources, particularly in Australia, where the streamflow variability is higher than in most parts of the world.


Climate | Environmental Sciences | Fresh Water Studies


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Publisher Citation

F.H.S. Chiew, T.C. Piechota, J.A. Dracup, T.A. McMahon El Nino/Southern Oscillation and Australian rainfall, streamflow and drought: Links and potential for forecasting Journal of Hydrology, Volume 204, Issues 1–4, 30 January 1998, Pages 138–149 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0022-1694(97)00121-2