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: 5 January 2017

Environmental conditionObservationsForecast from the Bureau of Meteorology

Sea surface temperature  (°C)

As of 5 January 2017, sea surface temperatures are generally warmer than average throughout most of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Temperatures are currently about 0.5–1 degree Celsius (°C) above the long-term average for this time of year. Generally, inshore waters just north of Innisfail south to Mackay are at the upper end of this range.  

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.  

Since 1 December 2016, most of the Marine Park has accumulated less than 10 degree heating days. However, inshore areas from Innisfail to Mackay have accumulated between 20 and 40*.

  • The six month forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal prediction system POAMA (Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia) indicates near average sea surface temperatures for the Great Barrier Reef until June 2017.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts that thermal stress exceeding coral bleaching thresholds from December to March 2017 on the Great Barrier Reef is unlikely for most of the Reef.
Tropical cyclonesThere has been no cyclone activity in the Marine Park so far this season.
  • 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 one or two making landfall (Bureau of Meteorology).
Rainfall levels

Since 1 October 2016, rainfall levels in the Great Barrier Reef catchment have been as much as 1200 mm below average compared to the long-term average for the wet season (October to April). Currently, rainfall is about 80 per cent below the average for Queensland as a whole (Bureau of Meteorology).

  • The national outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology indicates a below average wet season is likely in tropical north. 
Flood plumes

There have been no major flood plumes in the Marine Park so far this season.

Available stream flow data (from the month of October) showed low stream flow in the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

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

* As a comparison with the same time last year, most of the Reef had accumulated up to 10 degree heating days as of January 8, 2016. However, inshore areas south of Tully had generally accumulated between 20 and 30 degree heating days with small pockets at 40.