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Latest weather extremes prepared 1258 EDT, Saturday, 25 February 2017
State-by-state daily extremes Severe and noteworthy observations today
Hottest Coldest Wettest     Full list Windiest (km/h)     Full list
SA: 30.7 at 1230 MOOMBA AIRPORT
NT: 34.8 at 1230 JERVOIS
QLD: 38.5 at 1200 WINDORAH AWS
NSW: 7.4 at 1200 THREDBO AWS
SA: 14.4 at 1200 MOUNT LOFTY
WA: 20.1 at 1200 CAPE LEEUWIN
QLD: 24.1 at 1200 APPLETHORPE
Highest short duration falls:
2.2 in 16min to 1246
1.2 in 14min to 1200
Highest since 9am
46.4 to 1200
24.6 to 1200
57 gusting 64/ S at 1230
38 gusting 55/ S at 1200
31 gusting 53/SSE at 1242

Weather, climate
and site news

The news on AWN is collected and written as I have time in between maintaining and developing the site and trying to lead a fairly normal life! As a one-person website, AWN does not have the resources of a fully-fledged newsroom, but there are reputable media that have systems that let you easily find current weather and climate stories if you know where to look. I've listed what I consider the best of these on AWN's Weather and Climate Media Reports page.

*Asterisked links may not be permalinks, i.e. they may cease to work or the content may change after a while. See note at bottom of page.

Friday 24 February 2017

Bureau releases major reports on WA flooding, eastern Australian heatwave

The Bureau of Meteorology released a Special Climate Statement (SCS) on the widespread and unseasonal flooding in WA last Wednesday with this stunning photo on its Facebook page. The photo should be etched in the memories of anyone considering driving through floodwaters because "they know the road" - you never know what is (or isn't) below the surface.

The SCS on WA flooding (pdf) shows how exceptional the late January/early February rain event was in WA's Southwest, for which this is the dry season averaging just 50.4mm over the whole of summer. Ravensthorpe recorded 240.8mm between 1 and 14 February, sealing its wettest month in a 116-year history by halfway through the month.

Yorkrakine in the Central Wheat Belt recorded 197.5mm in the four days to 1 February with a nearby unofficial station racking up 217.2mm, figures that have less than 1% chance of occurring in any one year. Perth Metro station recorded 114.4mm in the day to 09.00 on 10 February, its second highest one-day fall in records going back to 1876.

A second SCS describing the prolonged and extreme heat (pdf) in NSW, SA, southern QLD and northern VIC in January and February was issued yesterday. Anyone who lived through the event will remember it for the rest of their lives, and it wrote all types of historic highs in the record book.

It set records for the hottest February day averaged over the whole state of New South Wales - twice. Moree reached 35° or above on a record 54 consecutive days and Mungindi did so on 51 consecutive days, both beating Bourke's state record of 50 consecutive days set in 2012/13. The highest temperature recorded was 48.2° at Tarcoola SA, while Birdsville QLD (47.1°), Hillston NSW (47.2°), Menindee NSW (47.5°), Moree NSW (47.3°), Mungindi NSW (47.8°), Nyngan NSW (47.4°), Thargomindah QLD (47.2°), Walgett NSW (47.9°) and Wilcannia NSW (47.4°) all topped 47° and set new February records.

The two SCS reports are thorough and packed with information on the background to the events, a description of them, the records set and how they stand in history, and in the case of the WA event the impact of flooding caused by the rain. Unfortunately, the impacts of the successive heatwaves are not described. They are worth reading and have something for almost everyone, as across the two events they affected much of the population of Australia.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Autumn likely to be warm and dry: BoM

Following unprecedented heatwaves in eastern states in late January and early February, the Bureau of Meteorology's Climate Outlook for autumn gives little cause for comfort.

Temperatures for the season are highly likely (above 75%) to be above average across most of the country with the exception of northern NT and northern WA. Rainfall has a high (greater than 65%) chance of being drier than normal across most of the southern two-thirds, with a very high (greater than 75%) in the SE quarter of the country.

The full Outlook is here, and there's a good video explaining it all.

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Alfred still causing problems

Heavy rain continues to fall along the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast in QLD from the remnants of the short-lived Tropical Cyclone Alfred. This slow-moving and peripatetic system has been hovering around parts of the southern Gulf for over a week. Mornington Island in the SE Gulf has recorded 731.2mm in the 10 days to 09.00EST today which is an average of three inches per day in the old money. 450.6mm has fallen in the past four days. Their largest 24-hour fall was 158.8mm to 09.00 this morning, and they have had three other days with over 100mm.

Fortunately, the rain has been very coastal so there has been little main river flooding. However 268mm of rain at Borroloola NT, close to the coast just west of the NT/QLD border, in two days to 09.00 last Monday caused the bridge over Rocky Creek to partly collapse, cutting the town in two and closing the main Carpentaria Highway. A full story and photos at ABC News.

Climate change a side issue as blackouts fire arguments

Events on Monday and Wednesday have taken some of the puff out of the stoush between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments over SA's increasing reliance on renewable energy. It has been maintained that this reliance was the main cause of the blackout of 28 September last year which threw almost the whole state into darkness.

Counter arguments say it was the result of unprecedented storm damage to infrastructure followed by a cascading failure of the transmission network. Several enquiries have been held while others are ongoing, but the event has acted as a political touchpaper. Wikipedia gives a detailed account of the story so far.

A further blackout in SA on 8 February during a heatwave that caused 90,000 households to lose power for at least 45 minutes due to a surge in demand again drew recriminations about reliance on renewable energy. Last week, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released a report saying that the gas plant at Pelican Point SA had not been available to meet the shortfall and that 100MW had had to be shed to protect the network. But inexplicably 300MW were shed. Renewable energy was not involved.

It turns out the extra 200MW were wrongly offloaded as a result of a computer glitch, blacking out two-thirds of the 90,000 properties. SA Power Networks knew within minutes that its computer system was at fault, but it stayed silent for a week and a half while the renewables argument raged back and forth. The Guardian gives an entertaining blow-by-blow description of the action at a Senate select committee hearing on Monday when SA Power Networks was called in for questioning.

Yesterday, AEMO released a report into why the NSW electricity network had been under such stress during the heatwave between 8 and 10 February. So dire was the situation that at one point the spot price for electricity had risen to $14,000/KWh, and power had to be urgently reduced to Tomago Aluminium which consumes 10% of the state's power output. Matt Howell, chief executive of Tomago, told ABC News "$14,000/MWh is equivalent to paying close to $400 a litre for fuel. If we had to pay that amount for fuel there would certainly be a community backlash, so why do we allow the electricity market to get that far out of kilter?"

The cause of the power reserve shortfall was found to be outages at two gas-powered plants and reduced output from two coal-fired plants. Renewable energy was again not involved.

In all the argy-bargy, the aim of phasing out coal and oil energy production in favour of renewables to reduce climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases seems to have become lost. As Greg Jericho writes in The Guardian, "So long as the energy debate ignores climate change our policy response will remain at [an] infantile level. And so long as that is the case we should condemn both the policy and the politics." And Lenore Taylor looks at the facts behind the blame game and the fiction of a coal comeback.

The Climate Council today released a report, State of solar 2016: globally and in Australia, which says "Solar costs are now so low that large, industrial-scale solar plants are providing cheaper power than new fossil and nuclear power." ABC News says the report finds "Solar energy is now cheaper in Australia than retail power prices in most capital cities after dropping 58 per cent in the past five years."

And to give an idea of what a really large solar plant looks like, NASA Earth Observatory gives a satellite view of the current world leader at Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China, currently generating 850MW. In 2016, Chinese total installed solar capacity doubled to 77 gigawatts, and in the pipeline, according to Bloomberg, is a single solar park with a capacity of two gigawatts covering 46 square km.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Record cold February night across NSW

Records for low night temperatures fell at over a dozen places in NSW and a few in SA and VIC this morning as clear skies and dry air in the cold airmass that has dominated the southeastern states for three days allowed temperatures to plummet.

Canberra was the most notable new record, with a minimum of 2.8° ousting the old February record of 3.0°, set in 1962 and equalled in 1985 in a climate history that dates back to 1939. The record doesn't show up in the Daily Weather Summary list of records because the observation site was moved within the airport grounds in 2010, and the new location hasn't yet accumulated the 10 years of observations necessary for records to be verified for that location, but a comparison of the two sites before the old one closed down showed they were a good match.

This morning's 2.8° was a normal temperature for late May, so Canberrans would have needed their heavy duty doonas. Interestingly, it has been colder in January with the mercury down to 1.6° on 12 January 2012.

It has been an unusually cold period for February with this morning's NSW record lows scattered across all of the southern half of the state. Forbes and Yanco broke records set a day or two ago in the earlier stages of this unusually long run of record-breaking cold nights. Two surprising records were 6.9° at Victor Harbor SA and 8.1° at Cape Nelson Lighthouse in western VIC. Both locations are beside the sea, showing that the low temperatures are due to a cold airmass, not to localised inland cooling.

One other telling record was smashed at the Agricultural Institute at Orange NSW. Normal temperatures are recorded in a Stevenson screen, which is a specially louvred design to eliminate radiation heat from nearby objects and ensure that only the temperature of the air is being measured. The thermometers are exposed one metre above the ground. A special temperature recorded at a few weather stations is the grass or terrestrial minimum temperature, recorded by a thermometer exposed in the open at grass-tip level. It's the temperature you'd experience lying on the ground out in the open, and is often 5 to 7 degrees below the screen minimum on still, clear winter nights when the air is dry. Its main purposes are to show whether frost has occurred and the conditions experienced at the level of young crops. This morning, Orange had its coldest grass minimum temperature in its 39 years of such observations when the grass minimum sank to -3.8°, knocking 2.8° off the old record. (Note that this record has not yet been verified.)

Monday 20 February 2017

Weak tropical cyclone brings copious rain to Gulf coast

The tropical depression that has been circulating in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria finally reached category 1 Tropical Cyclone status this morning. It is heading south and weakening and, according to the BoM Tropical Cyclone Advice issued at 23.05CST, it lay on the southern Gulf coast between Borroloola and the NT/QLD border.

This very slow-moving low cum cyclone has produced gale-force winds close to its centre, but its main feature has been the prodigious rainfall it has delivered to areas along the southern Gulf coast from successive bands of rain and thunderstorms. Centre Island in the SW Gulf has recorded 440.0mm over the 62 hours to 22.00CST this evening. 211.4mm of that fell in the 24 hours to 09.00 today, a record for February in the station's 47-year history. It may exceed even that by the 09.00 reading tomorrow with 145.4mm in the gauge at 22.30CST this evening and the cyclone close by. Morning Island in the SE Gulf has been close to the slow-moving low for nearly a week and has recorded 490.2mm between 09.00EST Wednesday 15 February and 23.00 this evening.

While rain has been very heavy along the coast and immediate inland, it is forecast to push inland over the next few days as the Tropical Cyclone weakens into a rain depression then moves westward. Rain totals of 100-150mm and locally over 200mm are expected to bring flooding across Gulf rivers in QLD and the McArthur and Roper Rivers in the NT.

The cloud and rain around the southern Gulf is making for exceptionally cold days for the tropics. Maximum temperatures have been in the low to mid 20s, between 8 and 12° below average, and look like setting new records for both yesterday and today at Centre Island and Borroloola, which have 40-year climate histories. Some other stations with shorter histories are likely to do the same.

Cold change sets records, brings snow to VIC and NSW Alps

An unusually cold airmass for February swept across SE Australia on Saturday breaking some long-established records for cold nights and bringing several centimetres of snow to Alpine areas. Both day and night temperatures in the eastern half of SA, western and central NSW and most of VIC were 8 to 12° below the February average.

Details of records are in the records sections of the Daily Weather Summaries for yesterday and today. Some notable ones were Mangalore VIC, 100km N of Melbourne, which yesterday broke its record low February minimum of 5.0° which has stood since 1964 with a reading of 4.2°, then today lined up to do it again with a minimum of 3.5°. Longerenong and Tatura (near Shepparton) VIC, each with a half-century climate history, also set new records this morning as did Griffith NSW with a 39-year history.

About 3cm of snow fell at Perisher Valley NSW overnight, enough to paint the scenery a stunning white in bright sunshine this morning. Two to five cm of snow was also reported down to the 1,500m level at Thredbo Village. Snow fell at Mounts Baw Baw, Buller, Hotham and probably most other skifields in the Victorian Alps, with SBS News giving the story good coverage and photos.

Older items are archived and indexed in the Daily Weather Summary for the relevant date.


* I link to stories and resources frequently - why re-do what has already been well done? However, a regular problem with the Internet is "link rot". There are two main causes: either the link has ceased to exist, in which case you get the dreaded "Error 404 page not found" or the link exists but the information on it has changed. Where possible, I use "permalinks", URLs which I know are likely not to change in the foreseeable future because the organisation, such as the ABC, has developed a stable link structure. Where I think a link may suffer link rot, I mark it with an asterisk but be aware that there's no guarantee unasterisked links won't evaporate given time.

Unless otherwise indicated, data and charts are provided by the

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