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 3: 14 Febuary 2017

Environmental condition


Forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology

Sea surface temperature (°C)

As of 14 February 2017, sea surface temperatures are generally warmer than average throughout most of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Temperatures are currently about 0.9–2 degrees Celsius (°C) above the long-term average for this time of year. Generally, inshore waters 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 between 20 and 50 degree heating days. However, some inshore areas around Port Douglas south to Townsville, and inshore Gladstone, have accumulated between 60 and 80.

The six month forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal prediction system POAMA (Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia) indicates warmer than average sea surface temperatures for the Great Barrier Reef until June 2017.

As at 7 February 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts thermal stress exceeding coral bleaching thresholds from February to May 2017 on the Great Barrier Reef may occur. A bleaching warning is current for the Far Northern, Northern and Southern GBR, with the Central GBR on bleaching watch. Predictions are that this may worsen.

Tropical cyclones

There 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 this time of year, but most areas are 400-800 mm below average.  January rainfalls were above median in the Normanby, Wet tropics, and the Whitsundays. Currently, rainfall is about 20-40 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 the tropical north.

Flood plumes

For most of January, satellite imagery was masked by cloud cover with no particularly visible river discharge plumes in evidence.  

Major flood plumes usually follow above average rainfall conditions, driven by monsoonal activity.

The seasonal stream-flow forecasts near median flows are likely for Queensland.