Weather News

Another warm year in Australia, full of weather extremes

Ben Domensino, Wednesday January 10, 2018 - 12:25 AEDT

The Bureau of Meteorology released their Annual Climate Statement for 2017 this week.

According to the report, 2017 was Australia's third warmest calendar year on record, with data dating back to 1910.

The national mean temperature during the year was 0.95C above the long-term average (this average is based on the 30 year period ending in 1990).

When looking at maximum temperatures alone, last year was the nation's second warmest on year record, coming in at a whopping 1.45C above average.

In terms of rainfall, 2017 was Australia's 30th wettest year since 1900, although falls were mixed across the country. Much of central and western Australia experienced a relatively wet year, while large swathes of NSW and inland Queensland fell short of their annual totals.

The abnormal warmth in Australia last year was part of a larger puzzle, a puzzle that reveals our planet as a whole was marching to the same beat in 2017.

Based on preliminary assessments of computer modelling and data collected from land and oceans around the world last year, 2017 is expected to be our planet's second to third warmest year on record.

Like all years in Australia, 2017 was punctuated by a number of notable weather events.

Early in the year, a cloud band fuelled by tropical moisture caused unseasonably heavy rain across parts of Western Australia's South West Land Division. In what should have been one of the driest times of the year, parts of the Wheatbelt received four-day rainfall totals of 150-200mm ending on February 1st. This was more than 10 months worth of rain for that time of year in some places.

As the final month of summer rolled on, an intense mass of hot air swept over Australia's southeast between February 9th and 12th. As the hottest of three distinct heatwaves to affect the region early in 2017, it would set new February maximum temperature records in South Australia (Tarcoola 48.2C) and Queensland (Thargomindah 47.2C). This burst of heat was also part of a prolonged hot spell, during which Moree in NSW registered 54 consecutive days at or above 35C, a new record for the state.

In March, Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie made landfall on Queensland's Whitsunday coast before spreading flooding rain through central and southeast Queensland and northeast NSW. A rain gauge near Sarina, south of Mackay, collected 355mm in a day and 1,316mm during the month, both of which were new records for March. The inundation caused major flooding in a number of river basins, including the fifth highest flood peak in 160 years of records at Rockhampton.

As winter took hold the snow season was off to a slow start during June, although things ramped up from July onwards. Cold front after cold front produced the highest snow depth in 17 years at Spencers Creek, reaching a peak of 239.7cm in late September. The season also gave rise to the hashtags #blizzardofoz on social media.

Late in September, a slow-moving weather pattern resulted in widespread and record-breaking early season heat across parts of southern and eastern Australia. This period produced the hottest September day on record for Australia as a whole (Friday 22nd), NSW (Saturday 23rd) and Queensland (Wednesday 27th). Mildura's 37.7C on 23rd was also the highest temperature ever recorded in Victoria during September.

Tasmania experienced a spate of warm weather during November, setting new records for monthly mean and maximum temperatures. Exceptionally, the state's monthly average maximum temperature beat the previous November record by more than a degree and exceeded the long-term November average by an astounding 3.79 degrees.

With the events of 2017 now behind us, Australia has embarked on what will be another year full of highs and lows across our land of weather extremes.

- Weatherzone

© Weatherzone 2018

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