Australian Capital Territory in 2019: a dry year with the highest average daytime temperatures on record

The ACT had a dry year in 2019 with very warm days. Average daytime maximum temperatures at Canberra Airport were the highest on record, while rainfall was well below average through the Territory.

A very dry year

A very warm year, especially by day

  • Daytime maximum temperatures were very warm in 2019, with values well above average at all ACT sites
  • Canberra Airport had an annual mean maximum temperature of 22.6 °C, the highest since records at the airport began in 1939, surpassing the 22.0 °C set last year
  • Maximum temperatures at Canberra Airport were above average in every month, and at least 1 °C above average in every month except May
  • January had the highest mean maximum temperature on record (34.5 °C) for any month at Canberra Airport, which was 6.3 °C above average and 1.7 °C above the previous record set in January 2017.
  • Overnight minimum temperatures for the month were the highest on record for January
  • Summer 2018-19 had the highest mean maximum temperatures on record, with winter and spring both ranking second-warmest. July and December also had record high maximum temperatures
  • Overnight minimum temperatures were close to average at most ACT sites
  • Apart from January, minimum temperatures were close to average in most months, with no other months in the 10 warmest or coldest at Canberra Airport
  • Combining daytime and night-time temperatures, mean temperatures in 2019 were well above average, with Canberra Airport's annual mean of 14.9 °C the highest on record at that location
  • Some sites had their highest mean daily maximum temperature on record
  • Some sites had their highest mean temperature on record

Canberra Airport

  • Total rainfall for Canberra Airport was 358.6 mm, which is 58% of the long-term average of 615.6 mm. This is the driest year since 1982, and the fifth-driest on record
  • The mean daily maximum temperature for Canberra Airport was 22.6 °C, which is 2.7 °C above the long-term average of 19.9 °C. The warmest day was 41.6 °C on 16 January, and the coolest day was on 14 July when the temperature reached 8.6 °C
  • The mean daily minimum temperature for Canberra Airport was 7.1 °C, which is 0.6 °C above the long-term average of 6.5 °C. The coldest morning was -5.2 °C on 23 August, and the warmest morning was on 31 January when the minimum temperature was 22.2 °C

Other features of 2019

  • Extreme heat affected the ACT on multiple occasions during the 2018-19 summer. The heat peaked in mid-January, when Canberra Airport had a record four consecutive days of 40 °C or above from 15 to 18 January as part of a broader heatwave affecting much of Australia. The hottest day was 41.6 °C on 16 January, Canberra's equal third-hottest day on record
  • Further extreme heat affected the ACT in December. Canberra Airport reached 41.1 °C on 21 December, the first time it has reached 40 °C in Canberra in December
  • Canberra Airport had a record 33 days of 35 °C or above in 2019, including 19 days in January alone, easily a record for a single month. January also had a record eight nights of 20 °C or above
  • There were 62 nights of 0 °C or below in 2019 at Canberra Airport, close to the long-term average, and seven days with maximum temperatures below 10 °C, the most since 2015 but still well below the long-term average of 18. The last year to exceed that average was 1995
  • Although snow did not settle in the central city during 2019, falling snow was observed in many suburbs on 9-10 August and 16-17 September. During the former event, snow fell during an AFL match at Manuka Oval, the first known instance of snowfall during a match
  • Raised dust affected the ACT on numerous occasions during the year, particularly in the second half, whilst extensive smoke haze from bushfires in surrounding areas of New South Wales severely degraded air quality at times in late November and December

Further information

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Extremes in 2019
Hottest day 41.6 °C at Canberra Airport on 16 Jan
Warmest days on average 22.6 °C at Canberra Airport
Coolest days on average 12.8 °C at Mount Ginini AWS
Coldest day -3.6 °C at Mount Ginini AWS on 10 Aug
Coldest night -6.7 °C at Mount Ginini AWS on 10 Aug
Coolest nights on average 3.9 °C at Mount Ginini AWS
Warmest nights on average 7.1 °C at Canberra Airport
Warmest night 22.2 °C at Canberra Airport on 31 Jan
Warmest on average overall 14.9 °C at Canberra Airport
Coolest on average overall 8.4 °C at Mount Ginini AWS
Wettest overall 692.4 mm at Mount Ginini AWS
Driest overall 337.3 mm at Sutton (Uba)
Wettest day 46.2 mm at Torrens (Darke St) on 30 Mar
Strongest wind gust 94 km/h at Mount Ginini AWS on 21 Aug

Lowest annual total rainfall for at least 20 years
Observed
(mm)
Most recent
lower
Annual
average
Sutton (Uba) 337.3 316.4 in 1982 638.7
Canberra (Australian National Botanic Ga 372.8 328.5 in 1982* 681.8
Aranda (Bindaga St) 371.8 362.6 in 1994* 651.7

* note: there are gaps in the historical record at this site, so it is possible a lower value has gone unreported




Record highest annual mean daily maximum temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Annual
average
Tuggeranong (Isabella Plains) AWS 22.3 21.8 in 2018 22 20.9



Record highest annual mean temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Annual
average
Tuggeranong (Isabella Plains) AWS 14.7 = 14.7 in 2009 22 13.9



Summary statistics for 2019
Maximum temperatures
(°C)
Minimum temperatures
(°C)
Rainfall
(millimetres)
Mean
for
2019
Diff
from
average
Highest
for
2019
Mean
for
2019
Diff
from
average
Lowest
for
2019
Total
for
2019
Average
annual
total
Rank
of
2019
Fraction
of annual
average
Canberra Airport 22.6 +2.7 41.6 16 Jan 7.1 +0.6 -5.2 23 Aug 358.6 615.6 v low 58%
Mount Ginini AWS 12.8 +1.0 32.2 16 Jan 3.9 +0.4 -6.7 10 Aug 692.4 1018.6 v low 68%
Tuggeranong (Isabella Plains) AWS 22.3 +1.4 40.8 17 Jan 7.1 +0.1 -5.9 24 Aug 350.2 607.1 v low 58%
Note: Observations for “Canberra Airport” are taken from the current site (Bureau number 070351), which opened in late 2008.
Comparisons are made against data from the previous site Canberra Airport Comparison (070014), which ran from 1939 to 2010,
combined with the current site from March 2010 onwards.

Notes

The Annual climate summary, generally published on the second working day of the year, lists the main features of the weather in Australian Capital Territory using the most timely and accurate information available on the date of publication; it will generally not be updated. More extensive discussion of significant weather events, along with later information and data that has had greater opportunity for quality control, will be presented in the Monthly Weather Review.

This summary includes data from observing sites in or near the Australian Capital Territory “Greater Capital City Statistical Area” (GCCSA). The Australian Bureau of Statistics designed the GCCSAs to “include the population within the urban area of the city, as well as people who regularly socialise, shop or work within the city, and live in small towns and rural areas surrounding the city. It is important to note that GCCSAs do not define the built up edge of the city. They provide a stable definition for these cities and are designed for the output of a range of social and economic survey data.

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 6 pm on Thursday 2 January 2020. Some checks have been made on the data, but it is possible that results will change as new information becomes available.

In some situations, some or all of the rainfall is in the form of hail or snow. In these cases the totals given are for the water equivalent: the depth of liquid water that results from melting any frozen precipitation. There can be significant 'undercatch' of snow in strong winds, meaning the true precipitation can be higher than that reported.

Averages for individual sites are long-term means based on observations from all available years of record, which vary widely from site to site. They are not shown for sites with less than 10 years of record, as they cannot then be calculated reliably.
The median is sometimes more representative than the mean of long-term average rain.

The Rank indicates how rainfall this time compares with the climate record for the site, based on the decile ranking (very low rainfall is in decile 1, low in decile 2 or 3, average in decile 4 to 7, high in decile 8 or 9 and very high is in decile 10).
The Fraction of average shows how much rain has fallen this time as a percentage of the long-term mean.

Where temperature area averages are mentioned, they are derived from the ACORN-SAT dataset.

Further information

Media
(03) 9669 4057
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