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Model uncertainty clouds impending QLD rain

Ben Domensino, Friday December 7, 2018 - 13:53 EDT

Central and northeast Queensland are at risk of flooding rain and damaging winds this weekend. However, there's still a lot of uncertainty in the forecast.

All weather forecasts have a degree of uncertainty, simply because the suite of computer models used by forecasters rarely agree with each other completely. Most of the time, there is fairly good agreement between models when looking at the next one to three days, with less alignment more than four or five days out.

This weekend though, different computer models are struggling to agree on what will happen, with a range of vastly different scenarios possible during the next 72 hours.

The focus of this uncertainty is Ex-Tropical Cyclone Owen, which has been meandering around the Coral Sea since it weakened below cyclone intensity on Tuesday. This system spent a brief stint as a tropical cyclone at the start of the week, becoming the first named system of the 2018/19 Australian cyclone season.

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Owen is expected to move towards the west during the coming days, potentially causing heavy rain and strong winds to develop along Queensland's central or north tropical coasts this weekend.

Unfortunately, each computer model predicts a different scenario during the next few days, making it impossible to pinpoint the areas likely to see inclement weather.

As of midday on Friday, the most likely scenario was for wind to increase along most of the state's east coast from Saturday and rain and storms to pick up from Sunday or Monday.

Strong wind warnings have been issued for coastal waters between the Cooktown Coast and Fraser Island Coast on Saturday, with a Gale Warning for the Great Barrier Reef Offshore Waters.

Anywhere between about Cairns and Gladstone could see periods of heavy rain and thunderstorms developing this weekend, most likely from Sunday. Some areas may receive enough rain to produce flash flooding.

More accurate information will become available in forecasts and warnings during the next 48 hours, as the system moves further west and computer models start to become more aligned.

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