Annual Climate Report 2003

The Annual Climate Report is the Bureau of Meteorology's official historical record of the previous year's climate. It provides a national overview of temperature and rainfall during the year, and documents significant weather and climate events.

This report contains an in-depth analysis of the past year's climate, following on from the Annual Climate Statement released earlier in the year.

Australia experienced warmer than normal conditions across much of the country in 2003. Preliminary data indicate that the all-Australian annual mean temperature for 2003 was 0.62 °C above the 1961–90 average, making it Australia's sixth warmest year on record since 1910. Australia's annual mean maximum temperature was 0.65 °C above normal (sixth highest), with the mean minimum temperature being 0.60 °C above normal (fourth highest).

The general rise in Australian temperatures during the second half of the 20th century is in line with global warming trends indicated by independent records from surface observation networks (land and ocean), weather balloons, satellites and glaciers. According to a preliminary estimate released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on 16th December 2003, the global mean temperature for 2003 was the third warmest on record (since 1861). In 2001 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

Australian rainfall for 2003 was largely influenced by the breakdown of El Niño conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean early in the year. Preliminary data indicate that the average rainfall throughout Australia for 2003 was 476 mm, very close to the long-term average of 472 mm. Australia's area-averaged rainfall is calculated from a network of around 5000 rainfall stations, most of which are staffed by volunteer observers.

However, recovery from the rainfall deficiencies that accumulated during the severe 2002/03 El Niño-related drought was slow and patchy, with some parts of eastern Australia yet to see a full recovery by the end of the year. In fact, annual rainfall totals were between 80 and 100% of the 1961–1990 mean over much of Queensland, NSW and Victoria, with large parts of western and northern Queensland receiving between 60 and 80%.

Temperature observations averaged over each State reveal that Queensland had the highest temperature anomalies with a mean maximum temperature anomaly of +0.92 °C and a mean minimum temperature anomaly of +0.99 °C. These anomalies were reflected in shifts in the numbers of hot days and cold nights reported. State rainfall totals for 2003 remained below normal in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, although these were all significantly above the corresponding totals for 2002.

Product Code: IDCKGCAR1.2003

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