A year of weather extremes

ABCMyPhoto: Clancy Paine

A year of weather extremes

BOM review shows 2019 was a year of weather extremes

Posted on 09.01.2020

From heatwaves and fires to floods and snow, 2019 was a big year of weather.

It wasn’t just hot and dry, it smashed the records.

Australia’s average maximum daytime temperatures really sizzled — last year was 2.09 degrees Celsius above the 1961-to-1990 average, smashing the previous record by half a degree.

Dr Karl Braganza, the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate monitoring, said it was the first time an annual anomaly had been two degrees above average.

Annual mean temperatures were also the highest on record for the country as a whole, at 1.52C above average.


It was also Australia’s driest year on record, with only 277.6 millimetres of rain for the country on average, 40 per cent less than the long-term average.

Dry years are often hot because rain cools things down, but this is the first time a year has been both the hottest and driest on record.

The previous driest year was 1902, at the end of the federation drought and before the official temperature record began.

2019 wasn't all fire

Major flooding from February to April across western Queensland brought relief to some and devastation to many.

It has been estimated 664,000 cattle died when floodwaters covered much of the Channel and Gulf country.

The on-flow ended with the ephemeral Lake Eyre reaching 65 per cent capacity, its fullest since 2011.

Then, dust storm after dust storm swept across the country along with a number of storm storms that caused havoc — from wrecking the vineyards of South Australia’s Riverland to pelting down 11-centimetre hail in Queensland’s Wide Bay region.

The south-east of the country was even sprinkled with snow at one point, with the AFL’s first snow match in Canberra in August.

Doesn’t August feel like a lifetime ago?

But yes, the main story of 2019 was the heat and the fires.

and Yes, climate change is involved!

The year that will be

How 2020 will follow is yet to be determined, but that underlying trend is not going away.

The current outlook is for relatively neutral conditions; the positive IOD broke down as the monsoon moved into the Australian region.

But that doesn’t mean we are out of the woods.

“We’re not seeing an indication of odds favouring a lot of widespread, above-average rainfall, but we are seeing indications of some rainfall starting to come in with the northern monsoon,” Dr Braganza said.

“The hope is that they start to cool down parts of the continent over the central and north-west, which tends to assist in cooling temperatures down a little.

“But really, it’s been very hot and dry already. It’s still the start of January, there is a deal of summer to go.”

Rain and cyclones might finally be coming in the north, but the call is to remain vigilant as the traditionally hottest months of summer are still to come.

Kate Doyle
ABC News





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