Latest detailed observed forecast and environmental conditions

Over summer, we monitor the health of the Great Barrier Reef to see how it's faring, as this time brings an increased risk of extreme weather, particularly heat waves, cyclones and flooding.

A detailed overview of the environmental conditions on the Reef is available below, and an overview of current conditions is also available.

Updates on current conditions are provided as part of our Reef Health Incident Response System.

Update 2: 12 January 2018

Environmental condition

Observations

Forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology

Sea surface temperature (°C)

As of 9 January 2018, sea surface temperatures were generally average throughout the Marine Park, with the exception of the Far Northern management area and some inshore areas throughout the Park which were 0.5-1.5ºC above average.

Since the beginning of December, between 10 and 20 degree heating days have accrued throughout the Marine Park. 30 degree heating days have accrued in the inshore Townsville region.

Accumulated heat stress, in the form of degree heating days, is calculated by accumulating positive daily sea surface temperature anomalies.

This is relative to the appropriate long-term monthly mean, for 1 December to 31 March.

Degree heating day values can represent a broad range of thermal stress; e.g. three days at 1°C above the local long-term average results in the same degree heating day value as one day at 3°C (Bureau of Meteorology).

  • The January to March 2018 forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal prediction system POAMA (Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia) indicates sea surface temperatures will fluctuate slightly above and below average throughout the Marine Park over this period.  Areas most likely to experience the greatest thermal stress include the Far Northern and Southern management areas, particularly in during January.
  • The seasonal outlook indicates that, between February and April 2018, air temperatures in the Great Barrier Reef catchment region are likely to be average, with the exception of Cape York which is more likely to be cooler than average, and coastal Queensland between Bowen and Bundaberg which is more likely to have warmer than average temperatures.
  • The current weak La NiƱa is predicted to be short-lived and dissipate in autumn 2018.

Tropical cyclones

No cyclones are currently affecting the Great Barrier Reef.

  • The eastern region outlook indicates a near-average cyclone season.
  • The average number of tropical cyclones in the eastern Australian region is four each season, with at least one making landfall.

Rainfall levels

Between 1 October and 31 December 2017 rainfall levels in the Great Barrier Reef catchment were generally average. Exceptions were the Cape York region which received below average and southern Queensland which received very much above average (Bureau of Meteorology).

  • The seasonal outlook indicates that, between February and April 2018, the Great Barrier Reef catchment will receive above average rainfall.

Flood plumes

No flood plumes currently affecting the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Major flood plumes usually follow above average rainfall conditions, driven by monsoonal activity.
  • The seasonal stream-flow forecasts near-median flows as more likely for most Queensland rivers.