Sydney just had its wettest year on record, so what’s in store for 2023?

Shortly after As of 1pm on Thursday, the city had a total of 2199.8mm of rain, breaking the previous highest total of 2194mm set in 1950.

As swollen rivers burst their banks and residents once again wash up muddy messes, one expert has assessed what is likely to come in 2023.

A resident shelters under an umbrella after heavy rain hit the Sydney CBD on September 29, 2022. Photo: Brook Mitchell
Shortly after As of 1pm on Thursday, the city had a total of 2199.8mm of rain, breaking the previous highest total of 2194mm set in 1950. (Brooke Mitchell)

Principal researcher at CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Dr. James Risbey said La Niña should weaken in early January.

He gave some positive news to those who feared an endless cycle of rain and floods.

“The chance of us having a fourth La Niña is going to be pretty slim,” he told

“Four in a row would be pretty rare…It’s not out of the question, but by chance we’d say maybe not.

“You can quite commonly get two in a row, and sometimes you can get three in a row, but the chances are we’ll probably slide back into a neutral or El Niño year.”

The predictions come as the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) today dropped its severe long-range weather forecast for 2022-2023.

A resident takes cover under an umbrella as heavy rain hits Sydney on October 5, 2022.
A resident takes cover under an umbrella as heavy rain hits Sydney on October 5, 2022. (Natalie Boog)

In the forecast, the agency said the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which determines El Niño or La Niña, will return to neutral conditions in early 2023.

But until that happens, meteorologists have warned that there would be more tropical cyclones than average from November to April.

“The number of tropical cyclones in the Australian region is generally higher with La Niña,” the agency said.

“The Australian region has a 73 percent chance of having more tropical cyclones than average.

“This also equates to a 27 percent chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average.

“Typically, 11 tropical cyclones form or pass through the Australian region in a season, with about four of these crossing the Australian coast.”

Risbey explained “it’s just too far into the future” to know what the summer of 2023 will bring.

He said we should have a better picture in July and August next year.

Major flooding has inundated large parts of north-west Sydney.
Major floods inundated large parts of north-western Sydney in early July and early March. (Getty/Jenny Evans)

“What usually happens is that the event, whether it’s La Niña or El Niño, weakens over the summer and it’s pretty much gone by the end of the season,” he said.

“Then we go into the fall and we’re not really in any phase, one or the other.

“Then a new event starts in September next year, but that’s too far away for us to have any real ability to predict.”

Risbey admitted that the amount of rain that has fallen this year has been surprising – even to him.

SMH News Sydney.  Weather in Sydney.  The image shows the rain rolling across the Sydney Basin.  Photo by Peter Rae.  Tuesday 5 October 2022
La Niña is expected to persist and weaken until December-January. (Peter Rae)

“I’ve been surprised by the continued rainfall along the East Coast,” he said.

“Going back to February and March, we had a period starting towards the end of February where we had two weeks in a row where we just had storm after storm.

“That spread between Brisbane and the NSW coast was just incredibly wet over that two-week period.

“It was really unusual and if you look at rainfall over a two-week period down the coast, it was the wettest on record.”

Risbey explained La Niña’s rainfall patterns are determined in part by where the events form, which can either be over the central Pacific or the eastern Pacific.

“The more recent La Niñas we’ve had have been more Central Pacific La Niñas and the rainfall patterns associated with them are different,” he said, adding it was unusual to see such a large amount of rain over Sydney and the NSW coastal strip. .

“It seems that with those in the central Pacific, which this year seems to be more intense, they actually have a rainfall connection with that coastal strip in NSW.

“It tips the odds to wetter.

“This La Niña is expected to persist and weaken through December-January.”

Flooding in Tamworth in regional NSW.

Hundreds of calls for help as heavy rain moves through NSW

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