Media Release, 7 January, 1998

The Acting Director of Meteorology, Dr Doug Gauntlett, said today that the average Australian temperature for 1997 was 22.00C, 0.19C above the 1961 to 1990 average (the international reference period for comparison).

The 1997 value continued the pattern of above normal annual mean temperatures in recent years. However, 1997 was only Australia's 15th warmest year in the high-quality record from 1910 and well below the record of 0.69C above normal set in 1988.

The Bureau's National Climate Centre calculated the annual mean temperature by combining maximum and minimum temperatures from high quality observing stations throughout Australia. Overnight temperatures again contributed more to the warm annual average with the mean minimum temperature (15.47C) being 0.30C above average whilst the mean maximum temperature (28.53C) was only 0.08C above average.

Weather events which contributed to the higher than normal annual mean include the heat waves of last summer across southern Australia, and in November and December across inland NSW and southwest WA. Cooling influences include an active northern wet season during January and February, resulting in much lower than normal temperatures in parts of the tropics, and a cold snap in central Australia during July when there were unofficial reports of snow on Uluru.

The Australian temperature analysis was based on 135 high quality temperature records jointly developed by the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Melbourne. Many of these sites form part of the Bureau's Reference Climate Station Network - part of a worldwide network established to monitor climate change.

Preliminary data collected by the United Kingdom Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia indicates that the 1997 global mean temperature may have been the warmest since records began in 1861. This is consistent with the global warming trend observed this century - the globe's annual mean temperature has been above average since 1979. However, the 1997 global temperature may have been boosted by the El Nio event which began during autumn and warmed the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean to near record temperatures for this century.

Below is a graph showing the variations from average temperature over Australia and the globe since 1910

Annual and Global mean temperature anomolies since 1910

The map below shows the variations from average temperature over Australia during 1997.

1997 Mean temperature anomalies