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Annual climate statement 2017

Introduction


2017 was Australia's third-warmest year on record, while national rainfall was somewhat above average

2017 was Australia's third-warmest year on record (the national observational dataset commences in 1910). Australia's area-averaged mean temperature for 2017 was 0.95 °C above the 1961–1990 average. Maximum temperatures were the second-warmest on record at 1.27 °C above average, coming in behind +1.45 °C in 2013. Minimum temperatures were 0.62 °C above average, the 11th-warmest on record.

2017 Australian mean temperature decile map
2017 annual mean temperatures compared to historical temperature observations. See also maxima and minima.

The 11-year mean temperature for 2007–2017 was the highest on record at 0.61 °C above average. Seven of Australia's ten warmest years have occurred since 2005 and Australia has experienced just one cooler than average year in the last decade (2011). Background warming associated with anthropogenic climate change has seen Australian annual mean temperature increase by approximately 1.1 °C since 1910. Most of this warming has occurred since 1950.

The main natural climate drivers for Australia, namely the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), were in a neutral phase for most of the year. However, there were cooler than average waters to Australia's west and warmer than average waters to the east of Africa during the year. This created a strong temperature gradient across the Indian Ocean which favoured a drying influence on Australia. A positive Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and strong sub-tropical ridge also contributed to Australia's below average winter rainfall and cool winter nights, particularly across southern Australia during June. Following steady cooling in the central to eastern tropical Pacific Ocean from mid-winter, La Niña thresholds were reached in late November, which is unusually late for an ENSO event to develop.

Annual mean temperatures for 2017 were above to very much above average for the majority of Australia, and record warm for much of central and southern Queensland, adjacent parts of northern New South Wales and an area of the central coast of New South Wales. It was amongst the ten warmest years on record for Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia.

Brisbane had a particularly warm year, with the annual mean temperature equal warmest on record, the mean daily maximum temperature also equal warmest on record, and mean daily minimum temperature third-warmest. Annual mean maximum temperatures were amongst the top three warmest for Sydney, Hobart and Canberra. Annual mean maximum temperatures were also warmer than average at most sites across metropolitan Melbourne, Adelaide, and Darwin. Mean temperatures were close to average for Perth.

2017 Australian rainfall decile map
2017 annual rainfall compared to historical rainfall observations. About deciles.

2017 was Australia's 30th-wettest year in a record spanning 1900 to present, with an area-average total of 504.06 mm—8% above the 1961–1990 average of 465.2 mm.

Annual rainfall was above average for most of central, eastern and northern Western Australia, the west of South Australia, and most of the Northern Territory. Rainfall for 2017 was below average for most of inland Queensland, most of New South Wales, eastern to central Victoria, and all of Tasmania. Notably, rainfall was below average across southern Australia during the cooler months of May–September. A climate change signal has been identified in the observed reduction of cool season rainfall in southern Australia; there have been significant declines since the 1970s in southwest Western Australia, and since the mid-1990s in southeastern Australia.

Darwin had its ninth-wettest year on record. Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart and Canberra all experienced a drier than average year, while annual rainfall was near average for Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane.


Globally, 2017 likely to be the second- or third-warmest year on record

The estimated global mean temperature for 2017 (January–November) was 0.77 ± 0.09 °C above the 1961–1990 average, and it is likely 2017 will be the second- or third-warmest year on record since 1850. The warmest two years currently are 2016 (+0.87 °C) and 2015 (+0.76 °C), records that were assisted by a strong El Niño. Conversely, the exceptional warmth of 2017 has occurred in the absence of El Niño.

Global temperatures have increased by just over one degree since the pre-industrial period, and all of the ten warmest years on record have occurred between 1998 and the present. No year since 1985 has observed a global mean temperature below the 1961–1990 average.

Global annual mean temperature anomalies (as calculated from the 1961–1990 average), derived from a five-dataset mean.
The black line shows the 11-year moving average.

Globally, it was exceptionally warm throughout the year, with all months to November either the second- or third-warmest on record for their respective month, except September which was fourth-warmest.

Temperatures were warmer than the 1961–1990 average across nearly all of the world's land areas, and warmest on record for parts of southern Europe, around Algeria in northern Africa, parts of eastern and southern Africa, and central to far eastern Russia. However, temperatures were cooler than average for much of Antarctica.

About the global temperature estimate

The estimated global mean temperature is produced using the average of several global climate datasets. The datasets in 2017 will include, for the first time, two estimates of global mean temperature based on comprehensive reanalysis. These are the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ERA-Interim) reanalysis, and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JRA-55) reanalysis.

Reanalyses are generated by feeding past and very recent observations of surface temperature and other variables into numerical weather models to achieve complete global coverage of atmospheric behaviour. The reanalyses complement the gridded temperature observations that have been used in previous years—namely the UK Met Office Hadley Centre (HadCRUT4), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAAGlobalTemp), the US Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISTEMP).

Temperature values from the observational datasets commence in 1880 for NOAAGlobalTemp and GISTEMP and in 1850 for HadCRUT4, while the two reanalysis datasets commence in 1958 for JRA and 1979 for ERA.

A year of frequent, prolonged warm spells

Persistent warmth was a feature of 2017 for Australia—the national mean temperature was above average for each month of the year and amongst the ten warmest on record for their respective months during March, July, August, October, and December.

Maximum temperatures were especially warm; monthly mean maxima were amongst the ten warmest on record for March, and each month from May to September, and also for December.

Australian-averaged daily mean temperature anomalies, compared to the historical average. The black line shows the 11-year moving average.

Annual mean temperatures were in the highest 10% of historical observations for nearly all of eastern Australia, nearly all of South Australia, and across the Top End and east of the Northern Territory. Mean temperatures were above average for most of the rest of the country. Mean temperatures were the highest on record for a large area of central to southern Queensland and adjacent parts of northern New South Wales and far northeastern South Australia, and an area of the central coast of New South Wales between Port Macquarie and Sydney, extending inland to around Coonabarabran. In terms of statewide average mean temperature, it was the warmest year on record for Queensland and New South Wales, fifth-warmest for South Australia, sixth-warmest for Victoria, and equal tenth-warmest for Tasmania.

Maximum temperatures for the year were above average for nearly all of Australia, and in the highest 10% of historical observations for nearly all of eastern Australia, South Australia, and most of the Northern Territory. Maxima were the warmest on record for a large area of central to southern Queensland, extending into part of central northern New South Wales, for areas on the coast of southeast Queensland, and a small pocket of the coastal Hunter District in New South Wales. For maximum temperatures it was the warmest year on record for Queensland and New South Wales, and amongst the ten warmest for the other States and the Northern Territory.

Similar to maximum temperatures, annual mean minimum temperatures were also broadly above average in 2017, but generally less significantly so. Minimum temperatures were in the highest 10% of historical observations for much of Queensland, northern and eastern New South Wales, southwest Victoria and parts of coastal South Australia, western Tasmania, and parts of the Top End in the Northern Territory. Minima were highest on record for an area of southwest Queensland. Minima were above average for most of the remainder of the eastern States, most of South Australia, the northern half and eastern border regions of the Northern Territory, and much of Western Australia. Minima were cooler than average for the northeast of the Alice Springs District in the Northern Territory and adjacent areas of the eastern Kimberley and northeastern Interior districts in Western Australia.

The first three months of 2017 were very much warmer than average for eastern Australia with record runs of warm days and nights at some locations. In contrast, above average to record rainfall kept days cooler than average in northwestern Australia during the summer.

Between May and September maximum temperatures were warmer than average over most of Australia, and in the highest 10% of historical observations for large areas. July was a particularly mild month; maxima were highest on record for much of northern Australia. This was as a result of a lack of both intrusion of cool air from the southeast and of northwest cloudbands during the month.

Overnight minimum temperatures were cooler than average for northwestern Australia in May, while June nights were in the lowest 10% of historical observations for much of the southern mainland. Southeast Australia experienced cooler than average nights for a longer period spanning June–September. Clear skies associated with a persistent strong high pressure ridge across the country contributed to warm, sunny days and chilly nights during winter.

September days were also warm for much of Australia. Exceptionally warm days towards the end of the month resulted in monthly temperature records being set for Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Fire danger indices were unusually high over winter and spring as a result of below average rainfall and the unusually warm temperatures. For May to September as a whole, forest fire danger index (FFDI) values were record high over large parts of Queensland and central northern New South Wales. Despite periods of exceptional FFDI and unusually early fire activity in the eastern States, the impact of fires during the year tended to be more localised.

October was warm across most of Australia for both maximum and minimum temperatures, while November was warmer than average across southern Australia and cooler than average on the east coast in Queensland and northern New South Wales. A long-lived blocking high during November brought an extended period of very warm weather for Victoria and Tasmania, resulting in the warmest monthly mean temperatures on record for Tasmania, and second-warmest for Victoria. Associated easterly winds contributed to cooler than average temperatures further north on the east coast in New South Wales and Queensland.

Warmth continued in December, with both maxima and minima above average for much of Australia. A long-lived blocking high brought an extended warm period during mid- to late December, with widespread hot weather affecting all States and Territories and numerous locations setting daily temperature records for December.

Areal average temperatures

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 108 (highest). A rank marked with '=' indicates the value is tied for that rank.
Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961–1990) average.
Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature Mean Temperature
Rank
(of 108)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 108)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 108)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment
Australia 107 +1.27 2nd highest (record +1.45 °C in 2013) 98 +0.62 106 +0.95 3rd highest (record +1.20 °C in 2013)
Queensland 108 +1.64 highest (was +1.51 °C in 1913) 104 +1.15 5th highest 108 +1.40 highest (was +1.24 °C in 2005)
New South Wales 108 +1.87 highest (was +1.76 °C in 2014 and 2013) 103 +0.97 6th highest 108 +1.42 highest (was +1.41 °C in 2014)
Victoria 103 +1.20 6th highest 98 +0.57 103 +0.89 6th highest
Tasmania 102 +0.71 7th highest = 88 +0.35 = 98 +0.53 equal 10th highest
South Australia 106 +1.42 3rd highest (record +1.89 °C in 2013) = 96 +0.62 104 +1.02 5th highest
Western Australia 101 +0.87 8th highest 91 +0.32 97 +0.60
Northern Territory 104 +1.07 5th highest 84 +0.33 97 +0.70

A year of contrasts for rainfall

2017 was a year of contrasts for rainfall. A wet start, dry in the middle, then a wet end—dry in the east, wet in much of the west, and wet in the Northern Territory.

National rainfall for 2017 was 8% above the 1961–1990 average, with an Australian annual total of 504.06 mm (the 1961–1990 average is 465.2 mm). Compared to rainfall since 1900 (118 years), this makes 2017 the 30th-wettest year on record, somewhat above average.

Australian monthly rainfall totals for 2017. The black line shows the 11-year moving average.
Annual mean rainfall (mm) for Australia since 1900. The black line shows the 11-year moving average.

Annual rainfall was above average for most of Western Australia away from the west, most of the Northern Territory away from the southeast, and the west of South Australia. Rainfall was in the highest 10% of historical observations for a broad band extending through Western Australia from the Kimberley through the eastern Pilbara and into the southern Interior and western South Australia.

Rainfall for the year was below average for much of eastern Australia, covering central to western and southern Queensland, most of New South Wales away from the northeast, central to eastern Victoria, and all of Tasmania. Annual rainfall was in the lowest 10% of historical observations for some areas in central Queensland, much of East Gippsland in Victoria, and along the east coast of Tasmania.

January and February rainfall was above to very much above average over much of northern and western Australia, owing largely to a sequence of slow-moving tropical lows which brought very heavy rain. Nationally, January was the fourth-wettest on record, while February rainfall was below average for much of the eastern mainland.

March rainfall was very much above average for much of the eastern mainland, associated with several heavy rainfall events in New South Wales and Victoria, and severe tropical cyclone Debbie in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Rainfall was also above average for Western Australia but below average in Central Australia.

Rainfall during April was mixed—above average totals were observed along the path of a northwest cloudband in the second half of the month, while below average rainfall occurred in the south and west of Western Australia and much of Queensland.

From May to September rainfall was below average for most of Australia, particularly over southeastern Australia. Unusually high atmospheric pressure across the country during June was associated with a southward shift of the belt of westerly winds, resulting in fewer rain-bearing low pressure systems and cold fronts crossing southern Australia. It was the second-driest June on record nationally, and the driest on record for Victoria. September was the driest on record for New South Wales and the Murray–Darling Basin as a whole.

October brought a shift to wetter conditions, with above average rainfall over much of Queensland and New South Wales, and also over inland Western Australia. Heavy rainfall along the east coast of Queensland resulted in flooding around Bundaberg and Tully.

November rainfall was generally average to above average, while December rainfall was below average over much of the Northern Territory and Queensland. Rainfall for December was above average along the west coast of Western Australia, and for much of South Australia and the mainland southeast. A heavy rainfall event at the start of December brought local flooding and two to three times the monthly average rainfall for parts of northern Victoria and southern New South Wales. At the end of the year tropical cyclone Hilda brought heavy rain leadind to above average monthly totals along a band from the western Kimberley into the Interior of Western Australia.

Tropical cyclone activity was slightly below the long-term average of 11 tropical cyclones during the 2016–17 season. There were nine tropical cyclones within the Australia region, the most significant of which was severe tropical cyclone Debbie which caused flooding and widespread wind damage in Queensland and northeastern New South Wales during March, continuing into April in some rivers.

As of 31 December 2017, the 2017–18 tropical cyclone season has seen three tropical cyclones within the Australia region, although Hilda was the only one to have an effect upon the Australian mainland, making landfall near Broome in Western Australia on 27 December where it caused some minor damage and flooding.

Area-average rainfall

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 118 (highest). A rank marked with '=' indicates the value is tied for that rank.
Departure from mean is relative to the long-term (1961–1990) average.
Rank
(of 118)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 89 504.1 +8%
Queensland 44 558.5 −10%
New South Wales 33 452.6 −18%
Victoria 48 620.4 −6%
Tasmania 16 1181.5 −15%
South Australia 86 248.9 +11%
Western Australia 110 482.5 +42% 9th highest
Northern Territory 100 644.3 +19%
Murray-Darling Basin 32 397.6 −19%

Major climate influences during 2017: positive Southern Annular Mode and strong subtropical ridge during autumn and winter, an unusually late La Niña

Climate influences from oceans to the east and west of Australia were weak during much of the year, allowing secondary climate drivers to exert a stronger influence on Australian climate.

The tropical Pacific commenced 2017 in a neutral phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO); i.e. there were neither El Niño nor La Niña patterns in the Pacific Ocean and surrounding atmosphere. The tropical Pacific warmed steadily from late summer before slowing in autumn, with ENSO remaining neutral.

From mid-winter the tropical Pacific cooled, while atmospheric and oceanic indicators began to consolidate in October. La Niña thresholds were reached towards the end of November and the Bureau declared La Niña in early December. It is unusual for La Niña to develop this late in the year, but not unprecedented. For example, 2008–09 was another recent late-starting La Niña.

Sea surface temperature (SST) patterns in the eastern Indian Ocean and to the north of Australia however were not typical of La Niña, remaining near average to slightly cooler than average in the eastern Indian Ocean (a typical event would bring warmer waters in these areas). This lack of a local warm signal to Australia's northwest partly explains the lack of a typical La Niña response in Australian rainfall.

While the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) remained neutral during 2017, there was a temperature gradient across the Indian Ocean throughout the year. Sea surface temperatures were very much above average to highest on record in the west of the basin close to Africa, and near average to cooler than average in the eastern Indian Ocean, including around Western Australia. This temperature gradient likely contributed a weak drying influence on Australian climate as cooler surface waters close to the continent limit the supply of moisture to the atmosphere, resulting in less rainfall.

The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and the subtropical ridge also made themselves felt this year. Atmospheric pressure was higher than average across the continent between April and June under the influence of a persistently strong subtropical ridge. The subtropical ridge was not only stronger than average during this period, it was located further south than usual for this time of year. SAM also experienced some strong positive phases during early to mid-May, and for a long period between late June and early July. SAM was also positive in late November to early December, likely contributing to the rainfall event in southeastern Australia at the start of December.

The more southerly position of the subtropical ridge suppressed rain-bearing low pressure systems and cold fronts, and pushed them further south of the continent than usual. This meant fewer rain systems were able to travel far into southern Australia. Southern Australia has experienced reduced cool season rainfall during recent decades. A 10–20 per cent decline in autumn and winter rainfall has been observed over southeast Australia since the mid-1990s, and a 20–30 per cent decline in rainfall over southwest Western Australia since 1970.

Mean sea level pressure (MSLP) was more than 7 hPa above average for June across much of southern Australia. Many sites with long-term MSLP data observed record high mean 9 am MSLP for June, including all but one site in South Australia, and all but three in Victoria. This high pressure had an effect both on rainfall and temperature; June was very dry for southern Australia, nights much cooler than average, and daytime temperatures warmer than average. Increasing MSLP over southern Australia in winter has been observed in recent decades, and is an expected outcome of climate change. Read more in the Climate Update: Subtropical ridge leaves us high and dry this June.

In addition to the influence of natural drivers Australia's climate is increasingly influenced by global warming. Australia has warmed by 1.1 °C since 1910, with most of the warming occurring since 1950, and mostly associated with the enhanced greenhouse effect. Global warming is also associated with reduced rainfall over southern Australia during the cool season, and may be a factor in the increasing rainfall in northern tropical areas. The ocean waters around Australia have also warmed significantly over the past century, and have been very warm to record warm consistently across the past two decades. Natural climate variability in Australia is largely dependent on season-to-season and year-to-year variability in Indian and Pacific oceans, which potentially increases the significance of this change.

Sea surface temperatures very much warmer than average for the Australian region

2017 sea surface temperatures compared to historical records
2017 sea surface temperatures compared to historical records. (From the NOAA Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature dataset, ERSST v5).
Sea surface temperature regions map and about deciles.

The 2017 sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly for the Australian region was the eighth-highest on record (since 1900); 0.49 °C above the 1961–1990 average based on ERSST v5 data. SSTs around Australia have warmed by approximately one degree since 1900, very similar to the increase in temperature observed over land. Above average annual SSTs have been observed for the Australian region in every year since 1994, and have been persistently high in recent years.

Prolonged elevated ocean temperatures have been significant for many aspects of the marine environment. Perhaps, most notably, prolonged high sea surface temperatures were associated with significant coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef during early 2017, following significant bleaching the previous summer. This is the first time mass bleaching events have occurred in consecutive years. Summer Degree Heating Days, a measure of accumulated positive sea surface temperature anomalies, were higher over a larger area of the Great Barrier Reef over the 2016–17 summer compared to 2015–16, despite 2015–16 being an El Niño year with typically less cloud cover than average.

Annual SSTs were very much above average across the eastern half of the Australian region. They were warmest on record for a large area around southeastern Australia, including close to the coast of southeast South Australia and western Victoria, and across much of the Bass Strait and Tasman Sea from around Port Phillip in Victoria extending northward around the east coast to the border of Queensland and New South Wales. SSTs were also record warm for an area to the northeast of Australia around the Solomon Islands and northeast of Papua New Guinea. Taken together, the Tasman and Coral sea regions describe the east of the Australian region (see sea surface temperature regions map). For 2017, the Coral Sea (+0.75 °C) and Tasman Sea (+0.84 °C) SSTs both were the second-warmest on record.

SSTs were in the highest 10% of historical observations to the east of the mainland throughout the year, around northern Australia during most months, and around southeast Australia from autumn onwards. SSTs for the Coral Sea region were amongst the five warmest on record for their respective months for each month of the year. For the Tasman Sea they were in the seven warmest for each month from March onwards. October (+0.91 °C), November (+1.04 °C), and December (+1.79 °C) were each warmest on record for the Tasman Sea for their respective months, while the December anomaly was the warmest on record for any month of the year (surpassing the previous record set in May 2016 by 0.43 °C).

November and December were especially notable in the Tasman Sea. Long-lived blocking high pressure systems, which brought record-breaking warm spells to Victoria and Tasmania in November and more broadly in December, contributed to highest on record SSTs between Bass Strait and the western coast of New Zealand. Clear skies let in heat from the sun, while light winds limited mixing of surface waters. These natural factors in combination with the background warming trend allowed record temperatures to be reached.

Very much warmer than average (decile 10) SSTs observed to the north and northwest of Australia during November and December may reflect a La Niña signal influencing Australia's climate as warm sea surface temperatures typically emerge to the north and northwest of Australia during La Niña events.

For the year as a whole, SSTs were near average around the southwest of Australia, and extending away from the west coast of Western Australia. Cool anomalies were observed in parts of this area during the first four months of the year. Comparatively cooler waters close to the west of Australia contributed to the broad-scale temperature gradient across the Indian Ocean throughout the year, with warmer waters in the west of the Indian Ocean.

For the globe as a whole, the average sea surface temperature for 2017 was the second-warmest annual value on record; with an anomaly of 0.54 °C based on values from the NOAA Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature Version 5 (ERSST v5) dataset, which commences in 1854. The warmest year on record was 2016 (+0.62 °C), followed by 2017, with 2015 third warmest (+0.47 °C). Global ocean heat content has also been at or near record high levels during 2017.

Sea surface temperatures were warmer than average across most of the world's oceans. They were warmest on record in large areas, particularly in areas of the western Indian Ocean, and in the north of the Maritime Continent, extending into the mid-latitudes of the North Pacific Ocean.

Annual mean sea surface temperature anomalies in the Australian region (as calculated from the 1961–1990 average).
The black line shows the 11-year moving average.

Notable events

Please note this list is not exhuastive—for a more complete summary of individual events, including those affecting smaller geographical regions or causing limited damage, please consult the Monthly Weather Review.

Region and event type checkboxes filter the display of event information following the form.

Regions
Event types

A band of slow-moving thunderstorms tracked across coastal southeastern Queensland and the Central Highlands district on 2 January, with very heavy rainfall on the central coast on the 3rd. Sarina reported 304 mm for the 24 hours to 9 am on the 4th, and Mackay Airport received 233 mm. Some flash flooding and road closures resulted in parts of the central coast and southeast.

A weak low pressure system deepened off the Townsville coast during early January, producing extremely heavy falls in the north tropical and central coast districts of Queensland, where Innisfail recorded over 850 mm during 6–12 January.

Thunderstorms caused locally strong winds and heavy rain in the Tamworth region in New South Wales, downing trees and powerlines and causing some damage to roofs on 12 January. On the 13th a fast-moving band of showers with gusty winds moved through the Australian Capital Territory. The State Emergency Service (SES) received more than 900 calls for assistance, with large numbers of downed trees as well as some property damage. Fallen trees and powerlines resulted in power outages to 16 000 households.

Heavy rainfall from severe thunderstorm activity affected Brisbane and the greater southeast on 16 January, with more than 60 mm of rain falling in half an hour near Ipswich, 87 mm in one hour at Carindale, and 80 mm in one hour at Mt Glorious. Flash flooding resulted and power was cut to nearly 1300 homes in northern Brisbane.

On 19 January northerly winds ahead of a trough and developing low pressure system brought very humid tropical air into South Australia from the Northern Territory. Instability across a broad area combined with the approaching trough led to development of thunderstorms across Eyre Peninsula during the afternoon. Squall lines then tracked across Yorke Peninsula between 7 pm and 8 pm, and the Adelaide area from about 8:30 pm, bringing severe winds and short-lived heavy rain. Roof damage to a number of buildings was reported, along with dozens of trees fallen across roads, onto power lines, and onto some houses.

Thunderstorms developed near the west coast of Eyre Peninsula during the early morning on the 23rd and subsequently tracked across western and southern parts of the Peninsula, bringing localised heavy rain and flash flooding. At Elliston about 50 mm fell in a short period prior to 9 am, causing flash flooding. Later in the day further thunderstorms occurred over the northern Flinders and Pastoral districts during the afternoon, with several large thunderstorm complexes persisting through the night. Significant rainfall was recorded at two locations in the Gammon Ranges, leading to significant flash flooding in some creeks.

Exceptional warmth affected large parts of New South Wales and Queensland from late December, through January, and into February. Several stations in northern and eastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland, including the Sydney metropolitan region, broke records for runs of consecutive warm days or nights, or for the total numbers of hot days or warm nights during January. In late February a Special Climate Statement, Exceptional heat in southeast Australia in early 2017, was published summarising records set. The highest temperatures of the period were recorded during 9–12 February.

In Queensland Thargomindah, Birdsville, Ballera, St George and Bollon all reached or exceeded 46.5 °C on the 12th, which was the previous Queensland record for the hottest February day.

Storms on 5 February brought widespread rainfall to much of Victoria, including some very heavy falls. Flash flooding and rain-related storm damage affected Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat, with the SES receiving more than 400 calls across the State. Power outages were also reported in the northwest of the State.

Several severe thunderstorms caused damage in Sydney and eastern New South Wales during February.

Thunderstorms caused very heavy rain in parts of eastern Sydney on the morning of 7 February, causing flash flooding in parts of the CBD, Zetland in the east and across the inner west. Several roads were closed as well as the St James and Lewisham train stations. The SES responded to more than 300 requests for assistance, with 20 flood rescues and roof damage to several buildings across the city.

Widespread thunderstorm activity was reported across eastern New South Wales on the 17th. Severe thunderstorms caused hail of 2 cm diameter in parts of Sydney, including Newport and the Blue Mountains, with more than 600 calls to the SES, mostly related to downed trees and branches.

Severe thunderstorms continued on the 18th, with large hail across much of northern Sydney. Hail larger than 4 cm in diameter was reported in suburbs including Hornsby, Thornleigh and Pymble, greater than 6 cm in Box Hill, Pennant Hills, Kellyville and Frenchs Forest, and reaching 8–9 cm in Annangrove. The hail caused widespread damage to cars and roofs, with more than 2700 calls to the SES including over 800 jobs in the Hills district and over $180 million in insured loses estimated by the Insurance Council of Australia. Hail around 2–3 cm in diameter was also reported from storms in Mt Kembla and Lithgow, with three women struck by lightning during a storm near Bowral.

Hot, dry and windy conditions contributed to widespread bushfire activity across eastern New South Wales from 11 February, with catastrophic Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) levels across much of the State on the 12th. More than 120 fires were reported across the State during the two days.

The severe St Ivan Fire east of Dunedoo in the Warrumbungle Shire burnt more than 50 000 ha. A total of 35 homes were destroyed and 11 damaged, including most of the small community of Uarbry. A church, a community hall, and 131 outbuildings were also destroyed.

The Kains Flat bushfire burnt more than 5000 ha near Mudgee, with one home destroyed. Six homes were destroyed and more than 1200 ha burnt in the Pabbinbarra fire near Wauchope, inland of Port Macquarie. Two homes were destroyed in the Dondingalong fire, southeast of Kempsey, and one home destroyed and a person injured in the Boggabri fire.

The fires also caused numerous road closures and power outages, threatened properties, and killed more than 2000 sheep and close to 400 cattle. Fires continued to burn throughout the month, with a fast-moving grass fire at Carwoola, near Queanbeyan, destroying 11 homes and damaging 12 more on the 17th, with 45 outbuildings destroyed and two firefighters injured.

Tropical cyclone Alfred was first identified as a tropical low near Borroloola on the evening of 15 February, and remained slow-moving near the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast for several days. The system gradually intensified on the morning of 20 February, and remained a category 1 system for nearly 24 hours, before weakening and eventually crossing the coast as a tropical low on the afternoon of 21 February.

Five-day rainfall accumulations around the Gulf coast included 862 mm at Sweers Island and were over 300 mm at multiple locations in the Carpentaria district. There were damaging winds and some flooding, with evacuations in the township of Borroloola.

A low pressure system developed off the South Coast of New South Wales overnight on 3 March and produced heavy rain over parts of southeast New South Wales during the 48 hours to 9 am on the 5th. The SES responded to close to 700 jobs, primarily for leaking roofs, particularly in parts of the Sydney and Illawarra regions affected by hail during February.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms affected large parts of the New South Wales east coast between the 15th and 19th, with locally heavy rainfall breaking March records at some locations including Grafton and Port Macquarie. The heavy rain caused localised flash flooding, downed trees and damaged roofs, with the SES receiving more than 3300 jobs and performing 85 flood rescues, particularly in the Wollongong area on the 17th and near New Italy on the 18th. Minor flooding was reported in many coastal rivers, with moderate flooding in the Nambucca, Bellinger, Hasting and Clarence rivers and more than 4000 people in the Clarence and Nambucca areas isolated by floodwaters.

An upper-level low pressure system fed tropical moisture across the east coast of Australia from 20 March. Heavy rain and flooding resulted in Victoria on the 20th and 21st, with thunderstorms forming over some areas as a surface trough moved over southeast South Australia in the early hours of the 21st. Rainfall for the 48 hours to 9 am on the 22nd was more than the total average for the month in a broad area covering far southeast South Australia and southern and central Victoria. Flash flooding was reported in areas from northeast Victoria to southeast South Australia, including Melbourne, Yea, Castlemaine, Port Fairy, and Hamilton. Flash flooding was generally less severe in southeast South Australia.

Severe thunderstorms affected parts of Sydney and the Central Coast on 22 March, with rainfall totals including 27.5 mm in 30 minutes at Baulkham Hills. The SES received more than 850 calls, primarily in western and northwestern Sydney, and performed 4 flood rescues.

Severe tropical cyclone Debbie was first identified as a tropical low southeast of Papua New Guinea on 22 March, intensifying to cyclone strength at 10 am on the 25th. Debbie reached category 2 strength before the system turned southwest towards the coast. The system stalled, then rapidly intensified on the 27th. Debbie made landfall near Airlie Beach on Queensland's Whitsunday coast on the 28th as a large and powerful category 4 system. Extensive damage was reported across the Whitsunday Islands, and at Airlie Beach, Bowen and Proserpine. Hamilton Island recorded a wind gust of 263 km/h as Debbie passed over, and the highest wind gust in Queensland recorded in the digital climate archive. A 2.6 m storm surge was recorded at Laguna Quays storm tide gauge (south of the location were the system made landfall), and exceeded the Highest Astronomical Tide (HAT) by 0.9 m.

After Debbie made landfall, the system continued its track inland, maintaining tropical cyclone strength as it passed over Collinsville. Debbie weakened below tropical cyclone strength around 3 am on the 29th, with the remnant tropical low producing major flooding in central and southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales during the following few days. Riverine flooding occurred in some coastal catchments from Bowen in Queensland to Lismore in New South Wales, extending inland to parts of the Central Highlands and Coalfields, Maranoa and Warrego, and Darling Downs districts in Queensland.

Between 28 March and 7 April the New South Wales SES recorded a total of 2914 jobs including 495 flood rescues. Evacuation orders affected more than 30 000 people and approximately 17 000 people were isolated by flood water. Three fatalities were reported as a result of the flooding, with Natural Disasters declared in six Local Government Areas. In Queensland, flooding continued in the Fitzroy River into early April (peaking at a major flood level of 8.9 m at Rockhampton on 7 April); this was the fifth-highest flood peak recorded at Rockhampton in over 160 years of observations.

Destructive storms affected Victoria on 27 March as a cold front crossed the State, with a line of thunderstorms extending from southern New South Wales into northeast Victoria. The storms intensified as the cold front encountered humid air remaining in the northeast. Albury-Wodonga was particularly affected, with approximately 1000 trees uprooted south of the city, and 200 calls for assistance to the Victorian SES. Further north, wind damage was reported in Wagga Wagga.

A strong cold front crossed southern and southeastern South Australia in the hours around midnight on 8/9 April, with strong and squally winds accompanying the front.

In Victoria the SES received 1000 requests for help, with the majority following the passage of the front across Melbourne in the afternoon of the 9th. The worst affected areas were in the Otways and areas reaching north to Ballarat and to the north of Geelong. Four people were rescued from floodwaters in Geelong and Ocean Grove, southwest of Melbourne. More than 22 000 properties across the State experienced blackouts.

Later on the 9th the front crossed New South Wales, with some storm damage and hail reported in Canberra and parts of southeastern New South Wales to the Central Tablelands.

A surface trough and cold front crossed southeast Australia during 25 and 26 April, producing widespread rainfall. Snow fell across the Alpine region in the very cold airmass behind the front. The Victorian SES received 568 calls, including 35 in Ballarat, and performed more than a dozen rescues of people in cars on flooded roads. A large proportion of calls came from Geelong as one severe storm cell passed over Geelong and down the Bellarine Peninsula. Some flash flooding was reported in Melbourne.

A coastal surface trough and moist easterlies brought rain to most of coastal New South Wales between 8 and 14 June, with heavy rain on parts of the northeast coast between the 12th and 14th associated with a deepening low pressure system. The persistent rain resulted in minor flooding in the Richmond and Wilsons rivers, as well as localised flash flooding and minor damage from fallen trees and branches. The SES reported 484 requests for assistance during this event, mostly from the Lismore region, with four flood rescues performed.

In early July an extensive pool of cold air with embedded thunderstorms lay over southeastern Australia. A cold front well to the east of Australia and a high over the eastern mainland kept skies clear while low soil moisture and very dry air also contributed. Precipitable water values were close to record lows in parts of New South Wales and Victoria on the 1st and 2nd.

It had been more than 10 years since minimum temperatures had dipped so low during July across a large part of southeastern Australia, while for the east of metropolitan Melbourne it was the coldest since August 1997. Some very low temperatures were also observed in west and central Gippsland with Warragul and Bairnsdale both below −5 °C. Some sites in the eastern half of Victoria and inland southern New South Wales observed their coldest July night on record.

A complex low tracked south of Australia during 4 to 7 August. Embedded thunderstorms and strong and gusty northerly to northwesterly winds travelled ahead of the front, with cold winds, squally rain, and hail showers in the wake of the front on the 6th. Heavy rain and strong winds were reported in South Australia and Victoria.

In South Australia emergency services responded to more than 100 calls for assistance, predominantly in the Adelaide Hills, while minor flooding affected some rivers. Three separate road accidents were reported within a 3 km stretch of the south-bound lanes of the Hume Freeway near Euroa, in northern Victoria, at around 1 pm on the 6th when hail caused dangerous conditions.

Heavy snow was recorded over the alpine region (50 cm to 100 cm over three days), and there were reports of snow falling at Trentham and near Ballarat in Victoria. The Great Alpine Road was closed between Harrietville and Mount Hotham, while avalanches were reported in some backcountry alpine areas.

In early September a series of strong cold fronts associated with a deep low pressure system well south of Tasmania brought cool weather to Tasmania and Victoria. On the 4th and 5th snow was reported settling down to 300 m in parts of Victoria including the Otway, Macedon and Dandenong ranges, and down to 100 m to 200 m in the west and far south of Tasmania. In Tasmania numerous highland roads were temporarily closed or made passable only to 4WDs.

Another cold front led to further snowfall to below 200 m in the south and west of Tasmania on the morning of the 8th, continuing through the day. Several highland roads and schools were closed, with snow continuing on the higher peaks until well into the 9th. On the 8th widespread rainfall in southern Tasmania and warming temperatures combined with melting snow to cause marked river rises in the Derwent River basin, and some minor flooding in the Huon River basin.

Heavy snowfall was also recorded in the Alpine region on the mainland, with the resorts at Buller, Hotham and Falls Creek reaching more than two metres of natural snow cover and extending their ski seasons into early October.

An exceptional period of unseasonal warm weather during the last week of September resulted in many records for high temperatures or early season warmth being set at long-term stations in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. During the 22nd and 23rd hot, dry northerly winds brought daytime temperatures more than 12 degrees warmer than average to the eastern half of South Australia and New South Wales' west and Riverina, before affecting areas further east on the 23rd in the southern interior of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.

The passage of a cold front brought a temporary reprieve across the southeast before a high pressure system re-established northerly winds during the 26th and 27th, resulting in a second pulse of exceptional heat. Daily maxima in excess of 12 degrees above average again blanketed much of New South Wales and southern Queensland on the 27th, and southeast Queensland on the 28th.

State records for warmest September day were broken in each of the mainland eastern States: 37.7 °C at Mildura, Victoria, on the 23rd; 41.4 °C at Wanaaring Post Office, New South Wales, and 42.8 °C at Birdsville, Queensland, both on the 27th. A Special Climate Statement, Exceptional September heat in eastern Australia, was released discussing the event.

The terrific heat, together with warm gusty winds streaming into the New South Wales and Queensland, and the antecedent conditions of very low rainfall combined to elevate fire danger indices to extreme in some areas, with several fires along the east coast, including large bushfires in Queensland at Burrum Heads, to the north of Hervey Bay, and in Tuan on the Fraser Coast.

On 2 October a surface trough and upper-level disturbance produced locally heavy rainfall in the Wide Bay and Burnett District of Queensland. Bundaberg and Woodgate received daily rainfall totals in excess of 230 mm to 9 am on the 3rd, while the SES received 150 calls for help.

In mid-October another surface trough interacted with an upper-level low to produce very heavy rainfall again in the Wide Bay and Burnett District. Riverine flooding resulted, with major flooding in the Kolan River and Baffle Creek between the 17th and 19th, easing below minor levels by the 22nd. On the evening of the 16th a man lost his life when his car was swept off the causeway near Gympie, and on the same night the commercial fishing trawler Dianne capsized north of Bundaberg with seven crew onboard; only one was able to be rescued. Crop losses were also recorded around the Monto area.

Frost was observed in parts of Victoria and Tasmania during the first week of November, causing significant crop damage in western Victoria, particularly in legume crops which were at a vulnerable growth stage. Some crop damage was also reported in the Midlands of Tasmania. Cool nights between the 4th and 6th saw some low overnight temperature records for November set in the southeastern States.

After a cool start to November an extended period of very warm weather affected Victoria and Tasmania. From the 9th a strong blocking high pressure system settled over the southern Tasman Sea, maintaining a persistent northerly airflow over much of Victoria until late in the month. A number of records for consecutive warm days were broken in the southeast, including 12 consecutive days over 25 °C at Sale in Victoria, 9 consecutive days over 28 °C at Melbourne (Olympic Park), 6 consecutive days over 26 °C at Hobart, and 9 consecutive days over 25 °C at Launceston. Numerous records were also set for total number of warm days in the month at multiple sites in Tasmania and Victoria. A Special Climate Statement, A prolonged warm spell in Tasmania and Victoria, was released discussing the event.

Heavy rainfall across large areas of Victoria and Tasmania between 1 and 3 December resulted when moist tropical air being drawn southward by a blocking high pressure system over the Tasman Sea combined with a strong trough and cold front to the south of the mainland. Multi-day totals of more than 100 mm for the event were observed across parts of central to northeastern Victoria, extending to the eastern border regions of the Australian Capital Territory; large parts of northern Victoria and southern New South Wales received two to three times the average monthly total for December in just a few days.

The SES received 2700 calls for assistance across Victoria, roughly half from Melbourne. In the northeast 73 homes were damaged by flood waters; severe flooding affected towns including Euroa, Myrtleford, the Buckland Valley, and rural areas to the south of Shepparton. Flash flooding was also reported in parts of Melbourne, particularly suburbs in the east and north. Many farmers worked around the clock to harvest crops before the rains started, while damage to stone fruit and berry crops was reported in the north of the State and in the Yarra Valley.

In Tasmania the event brought snowfall to levels as low as 900 m on the 2nd, with unusually heavy falls of up to 40 cm reported on the Central Plateau. Thousands of livestock deaths in the Midlands and some elevated areas were attributed to the cold and wet conditions, with recently shorn sheep particularly affected.

A hot, humid and unstable air-mass moved over Victoria during 19 December ahead of a cold front and low pressure trough. Gusty and locally damaging winds developed across Victoria in northerly flow ahead of the front before winds shifted squally west- to southwesterly with the passage of the trough and front. Severe thunderstorms developed across much of the State during the afternoon and persisted overnight, mostly affecting areas near the trough and front.

Flash flooding was reported in parts of Melbourne city and a number of the surrounding suburbs, most notably on the eastern side of the city. The storms were fast-moving so overall totals were low, but short-period rainfall was quite intense. Large hail up to 5 cm in diameter was also reported in several locations in the northern and eastern suburbs, and a landslip in Surrey Hills led to the closure of Warrigal Road. Hail caused extensive damage in car yards around Ferntree Gully and Knoxfield.

The SES recorded more than 1800 calls for assistance, with 650 from Metropolitan Melbourne. There were 110,000 homes without power at the peak of the event; while 25,000 were still without power at 8am the following morning, mainly across the north. In the north of the State there were 195 SES callouts in the Mildura area, a truck was overturned by wind on the Hume Hwy between Benalla and Glenrowan at 7:30 pm closing the highway for several hours, and many trees were felled in central and northern Victoria.

Severe thunderstorms developed over southeast Queensland on the afternoon of 26 December. A particularly intense thunderstorm cell originated near Southbrook, southwest of Toowoomba. As this cell tracked north through Wellcamp and Oakey, it produced large hail stones with a diameter greater than 4 cm at Southbrook, and hail up to 11 cm in diameter was reported at Silverleigh and Goombungee, both north of Oakey. Damaging wind gusts snapped power poles and large tree branches around Norwin.

2017 monthly and annual rainfall, temperature and sea surface temperature deciles maps

Table of rainfall, temperature and sea surface temperature maps for each month and the year
Rainfall
deciles
Maximum temperature
deciles
Minimum temperature
deciles
Mean temperature
deciles
Sea surface temperature
deciles
January Rainfall deciles for January Maximum temperature deciles for January Minimum temperature deciles for January Mean temperature deciles for January Sea surface temperature deciles for January
February Rainfall deciles for February Maximum temperature deciles for February Minimum temperature deciles for February Mean temperature deciles for February Sea surface temperature deciles for February
March Rainfall deciles for March Maximum temperature deciles for March Minimum temperature deciles for March Mean temperature deciles for March Sea surface temperature deciles for March
April Rainfall deciles for April Maximum temperature deciles for April Minimum temperature deciles for April Mean temperature deciles for April Sea surface temperature deciles for April
May Rainfall deciles for May Maximum temperature deciles for May Minimum temperature deciles for May Mean temperature deciles for May Sea surface temperature deciles for May
June Rainfall deciles for June Maximum temperature deciles for June Minimum temperature deciles for June Mean temperature deciles for June Sea surface temperature deciles for June
July Rainfall deciles for July Maximum temperature deciles for July Minimum temperature deciles for July Mean temperature deciles for July Sea surface temperature deciles for July
August Rainfall deciles for August Maximum temperature deciles for August Minimum temperature deciles for August Mean temperature deciles for August Sea surface temperature deciles for August
September Rainfall deciles for September Maximum temperature deciles for September Minimum temperature deciles for September Mean temperature deciles for September Sea surface temperature deciles for September
October Rainfall deciles for October Maximum temperature deciles for October Minimum temperature deciles for October Mean temperature deciles for October Sea surface temperature deciles for October
November Rainfall deciles for November Maximum temperature deciles for November Minimum temperature deciles for November Mean temperature deciles for November Sea surface temperature deciles for November
December Rainfall deciles for December Maximum temperature deciles for December Minimum temperature deciles for December Mean temperature deciles for December Sea surface temperature deciles for December
Year Rainfall deciles for the year Maximum temperature deciles for the year Minimum temperature deciles for the year Mean temperature deciles for the year Sea surface temperature deciles for the year

Data currency

All values in this statement were compiled from data available on the issue date. Subsequent quality control and the availability of additional data may result in minor changes to final values.

Accessing Australia's climate change datasets

The Bureau collects, manages and safeguards Australia's climate archive. Several datasets have been developed from this archive to identify, monitor and attribute changes in the Australian climate. You can access these datasets on our website.


This statement has been prepared using the homogenised Australian temperature dataset (ACORN-SAT) for area-averaged temperature values and the observational dataset (AWAP) for area-averaged rainfall values and mapped analyses for both temperature and rainfall.

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