La Nina looms on the horizon

THEY say all the signs can be seen in the bush and, for Capella's Joe Bridgeman, it's every bit a cycle.

When the Bauhinia trees flower generously it's usually a good indicator of wet weather to come.

And we've all heard the signs of the ants building high or a large flock of ibises taking to the sky.

But the question remains - just how wet is this summer going to be?

Mr Bridgeman, who's got more than 60 years experience studying the Highlands' natural signs, said P J Hartigan's famous poem, Said Hanrahan, best described the cycle of the bush.

"There are some more prolific Bauhinia flowers starting to show up, which is usually a good indicator of a wet summer," Mr Bridgeman said.

"Plus there are certain natural springs in the area running like I have never seen them run before.

"It's all in the cycle of the bush. If you look back at the Peak Downs Station rainfall 100 years ago, you'll see that they had huge rainfall in 1910 and for a good three years after.

"We'll have three years now, but we'll take it on the chin as it comes.

"Whatever will be will be, we have no control over it."

What is definitely true is that if ocean temperatures continue to cool through the Pacific over the coming months, Queensland can expect a very wet summer coupled with frequent flood events.

However, Weather Channel senior meteorologist Tom Saunders said events were unlikely to match the widespread catastrophes of last year.

On Monday the Bureau of Meteorology delivered a briefing of what to expect from the coming wet season to the Queensland Cabinet behind closed doors.

The predictions were for a dangerous bush fire season, a high number of severe thunderstorms in the south, above average rainfall north of the Tropic of Capricorn and the possibility of above average cyclone numbers.

But Bureau of Meteorology deputy director Bruce Gunn said all indicators remained well short of the strong La Nina conditions evident at this time last year.

He said it was a certainty that some areas would flood, as was normal in Queensland, but it was unknown where rain would fall or cyclones would cross.

"I think if we are going to get the spring rains that really set the scene for the devastating floods that we saw in summer, then we'd be experiencing that now," he said.

The Weather Channel contended that while Queensland experienced one of the strongest La Nina's on record last summer, a repeat was expected, as weak La Nina conditions continued to form.

"Weak La Nina conditions have returned to the Pacific Basin as sea surface temperatures over the equatorial Pacific have fallen at least 0.5˚C below average during the past month," Mr Saunders said.

"We expect weak La Nina conditions to persist and possibly even strengthen into the Southern Hemisphere summer, which continues the historic trend of strong La Nina events being followed by relatively weak events the second year."

Mr Saunders said the event was unlikely to reach the same intensity of last year and therefore he expected less rain and flooding.

"However, above average rain is now the most likely outcome through northern and eastern Australia during the next six months," he said.

Premier Anna Bligh said Queensland was better prepared than ever for whatever Mother Nature threw in its way this summer.

"No matter what we hear from the Bureau we will continue to prepare for the worst while we hope for the best," Ms Bligh said.

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