Sydney in 2013: Warmest year on record

2013 was the warmest year on record for Sydney, with the hottest day, the warmest winter, and the warmest spring. There were fewer rain days than average, but the most heavy rain days since 1988.

  • Warmest year on record for maximum and mean temperatures
  • Record lack of cool days and nights
  • Hottest day on record for Sydney
  • Above average rainfall, but notable dry spells too
  • Most rain days of at least 25 mm since 1988

The Bureau of Meteorology's Australian annual climate statement is also available.

Rainfall - Most heavy rain days since 1988

Sydney Observatory Hill recorded 1344.4 mm of rain during 2013, which is above the historical average of 1215 mm. The rain fell over 119 rain days, below the historical average of 144 days, but on 21 of those days there was least 25 mm (compared to an average of just 13 days). This is the equal-sixth-highest on record, and the most heavy rain events in any year since 1988 (when there was also 21 days).

Rainfall was above average at the start of the year, with the wettest January-February period since 2008 associated with a number of significant rainfall events. Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald caused heavy rain in the Sydney basin on 29 January, reaching 161 mm at Castle Cove, while on 24 February an East Coast Low weather system produced totals of up to 81 mm at Audley. This was followed by closer to average rainfall during autumn, which featured eight days above 25 mm, double the historical average, as well as a notable dry spell - only 0.2 mm of rain was recorded in the four weeks between 24 April and 22 May, the driest four-week autumn period on record.

June was the wettest month of 2013 and the wettest month since June 2007, with a monthly total of 316.4 mm and on three days recorded more than 50 mm of rainfall (on average 50 mm would occur on a day in June only once every 2 years). This month also included two-day totals of up to 158.2 mm on the 24th associated with another East Coast Low weather system, as well as two-day totals of 156.2 mm at Collaroy on the 30th associated with a surface trough. The quick succession of these heavy rain events caused minor damage in the city, as well as causing Warragamba Dam to spill.

The wet conditions were followed by the emergence of persistent dry conditions during the July-October period, associated with winds that were stronger and more westerly than usual. The state average rain for this four-month period was only 125.4 mm, only 38% of the average for the July to October period of 323.9 mm and the driest such period since 2002. Some western Sydney stations such as Richmond and Katoomba recorded their driest July-October period on record.

Easterly winds dominated in November, with thunderstorm activity from several surface troughs contributing to the wettest November since 1984. The year ended with a return to mostly dry and clear conditions until there was over 20 mm across the city on Christmas day and Boxing Day.

Sydney's water storage at years end was at 88.3% of capacity, which is similar to levels at the end of 2012 (89.0%). Current water storage information can be found on the Bureau of Meteorology Water Storage web site.

Temperature - Warmest year on record

The average daily temperature (the average of the daily maximum and minimum temperatures) at Sydney Observatory Hill was 1.7 °C above average, making 2013 the warmest year on record. This is the 21st consecutive year with above-average temperatures in Sydney.

The average maximum temperature at Sydney Observatory Hill during 2013 was 23.7 °C, 2.0 °C above the historical average and 0.3 °C above the previous record, set in 2004. Every month during 2013 was warmer than average, including the warmest winter on record, the warmest spring on record, and the equal-third-warmest autumn. Temperatures were particularly warm between July and October, which was 3.6 °C above the historical average and 1.2 °C above the previous record. This included the warmest July and September on record, as well as the second-warmest August and October.

The warm temperatures during the year are at least partly the result of a lack of cold spells: only 66 days failed to reach 20 °C during the year, half the historical average of 140 days and significantly fewer than the previous record of 82 days in 2005. This included 26 consecutive days above 20 °C between 21 April and 16 May, the equal-latest such spell on record for autumn, as well as a record July mild spell of 6 days above 20 °C.

There were also several very warm days, with 19 days reaching at least 30 °C (the average is 15 days). This included 8 days during September-October (the average is 2 days), the most hot days on record this early in the season. The hottest days occurred during January, which recorded both the hottest day on record for Sydney with 45.8 °C on the 18th, as well as the sixth-hottest day on record with 42.3 °C on the 8th.

The average minimum temperature for the year at Sydney Observatory Hill was 15.1 °C, 1.3 °C above the historical average. Minimum temperatures were also above average throughout the year, with the warmest September and equal-warmest July-October on record. Only 48 nights dropped below 10 °C during the year, the fewest on record for Sydney (average 89 nights), with no nights dropping below 7 °C for only the second time on record (also in 1998). There were 64 nights where the temperature did not drop below 20 °C (average 27), just a few days short of the 2010 record of 67 such warm nights. In September there were two mornings that reached the previous September 9 am temperature record: 25.9 °C on the 10th and a record 26.9 °C on the 26th. September 10 was also the earliest 20 °C night on record.

A number of other temperature records were broken during the year.

Other phenomena

Sydney Airport recorded an average of 7.8 hours of bright sunshine during 2013, above the historical average of 7.2 hours and the second-sunniest year on record (behind 1980), with particularly sunny conditions associated with dry weather during July-October and December. There were 86 strong wind days at Sydney Airport, the most since 1996, with gusts exceeding 90 km/h on 4 days. There were 19 days with thunder reported at the airport, which is average for Sydney, with most storms reported in February and November.

Damage was associated with strong winds on 24 February, 12 August, 26 September, and 1, 17, and 29 October, while a short-lived tornado caused damage to Hornsby on 18 November. Severe thunderstorms also caused damage in Sydney on 1 February, while flash flooding was reported on 3 and 20 April, 30 May, 24 and 30 June, 28 October and 22 November.

Heavy fog on both 28 and 29 May persisted well into the morning, causing disruption to air traffic. Minimum visibility remained below 1 km between 4:30 and 9:00 am on the 28th and between 2:30 and 9:00 am on the 29th, with mist persisting until 11 am in both cases.

Severe early-season bushfire activity impacted the Sydney region during September and October, associated with dry, warm, windy weather. In the Springwood/Winmalee area of the Blue Mountains two homes were destroyed during bushfires on 10 September, before a period of sustained bushfire activity between 17-23 October destroyed an additional 193 houses as well as power, rail, and tourism infrastructure.

Further information

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Extremes in 2013
Hottest day 46.5 °C at Penrith Lakes AWS on 18 Jan
Warmest days on average 25.4 °C at Penrith Lakes AWS
Coolest days on average 22.4 °C at Terrey Hills AWS
Coldest day 11.3 °C at Springwood (Valley Heights) on 29 Jun
Coldest night -2.1 °C at Camden Airport AWS on 22 Jul
Coolest nights on average 10.2 °C at Camden Airport AWS
Warmest nights on average 15.1 °C at Sydney (Observatory Hill)
Warmest night 24.1 °C at Sydney Airport AMO on 10 Dec
Warmest on average overall 19.5 °C at Sydney Airport AMO
Coolest on average overall 17.5 °C at Camden Airport AWS and Campbelltown (Mount Annan)
Wettest overall 1563.0 mm at Castle Cove (Rosebridge Ave)
Wettest day 161.0 mm at Castle Cove (Rosebridge Ave) on 29 Jan
Highest wind gust 106 km/h at Camden Airport AWS and Richmond RAAF on 5 Dec

Record highest temperature
Highest temperature
in 2013 (°C)
Previous annual
warmest
Years of
record
Annual
average
Sydney (Observatory Hill) 45.8 on 18 Jan 45.3 on 14 Jan 1939 155 21.7
Sydney Airport AMO 46.4 on 18 Jan 45.2 on 1 Jan 2006 75 22.2
Prospect Reservoir 45.1 on 18 Jan 44.7 on 15 Jan 2001 49 23.2
Parramatta North (Masons Drive) 45.5 on 18 Jan 44.8 on 1 Jan 2006 47 23.3
Bankstown Airport AWS 46.1 on 18 Jan 44.8 on 18 Jan 2003 46 23.2
Camden Airport AWS 46.4 on 18 Jan 45.0 on 30 Jan 2003 40 23.6
Riverview Observatory 45.4 on 18 Jan 44.0 on 1 Jan 2006 32 22.2


Record highest annual mean daily maximum temperature
Mean daily maximum
temperature
for 2013 (°C)
Previous annual
warmest
Years of
record
Annual
average
Sydney (Observatory Hill) 23.7 23.4 in 2004 154 21.7
Sydney Airport AMO 24.0 23.4 in 2009 73 22.2
Prospect Reservoir 24.6 24.4 in 2005 44 23.2
Bankstown Airport AWS 24.6 24.1 in 1980 43 23.2


Record highest annual mean daily minimum temperature
Mean daily minimum
temperature
for 2013 (°C)
Previous annual
warmest
Years of
record
Annual
average
Sydney Airport AMO 15.0 = 15.0 in 2007 73 13.4


Record highest annual mean temperature
Mean daily
temperature
for 2013 (°C)
Previous annual
warmest
Years of
record
Annual
average
Sydney (Observatory Hill) 19.4 19.1 in 2005 154 17.7
Sydney Airport AMO 19.5 19.2 in 2009 73 17.8
Bankstown Airport AWS 18.5 18.2 in 1980 43 17.6


Summary statistics for 2013
Maximum temperatures
(°C)
Minimum temperatures
(°C)
Rainfall
(millimetres)
Mean
for
2013
Diff
from
average
Highest
for
2013
Mean
for
2013
Diff
from
average
Lowest
for
2013
Total
for
2013
Average
annual
total
Rank
of
2013
Fraction
of annual
average
Badgerys Creek AWS 24.5   45.8 18 Jan 11.1   -0.4 23 Jul 911.6
Bankstown Airport AWS 24.6 +1.4 46.1 18 Jan 12.3 +0.3 1.0 23 Jul 876.6 875.3 average 100%
Camden Airport AWS 24.7 +1.1 46.4 18 Jan 10.2 0.0 -2.1 22 Jul
Campbelltown (Mount Annan) 24.4   45.0 18 Jan 10.5   -0.9 22 Jul 868.8
Canterbury Racecourse AWS 23.6   44.6 18 Jan 12.3   1.6 23 Jul
Holsworthy Aerodrome AWS 24.3   45.8 18 Jan 11.9   0.6 23 Jul 905.4
Holsworthy Control Range 24.2   45.7 18 Jan 11.2   -0.7 7 Jul 845.4
Horsley Park Equestrian Centre AWS 24.4   44.9 18 Jan 12.1   1.9 6 Jul 820.0
Parramatta North (Masons Drive) 24.3 +1.0 45.5 18 Jan 12.4 +0.2 3.2 16 Aug 920.2 968.7 average 95%
Penrith Lakes AWS 25.4   46.5 18 Jan 12.3   1.5 7 Jul 763.0
Prospect Reservoir 24.6 +1.4 45.1 18 Jan 12.5 +0.3 0.0 4 Jul 894.6 871.8 average 103%
Richmond RAAF 25.2   46.4 18 Jan 11.1   -0.8 21 Aug 661.0
Springwood (Valley Heights) 23.1   44.1 18 Jan 12.1   4.2 9 Aug 1011.2 1089.2 average 93%
Sydney (Observatory Hill) 23.7 +2.0 45.8 18 Jan 15.1 +1.3 7.0 9 Aug 1344.4 1215.9 high 111%
Sydney Airport AMO 24.0 +1.8 46.4 18 Jan 15.0 +1.6 5.2 7 Jul 1246.0 1084.8 high 115%
Terrey Hills AWS 22.4   43.9 18 Jan     4.4 20 Aug

Notes

The Annual Climate Summary is prepared to list the main features of the weather in Sydney using the most timely and accurate information available on the date of publication; it will generally not be updated. Later information, including data that has had greater opportunity for quality control, will be presented in the Monthly Weather Review, usually published in the fourth week of the month.

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 10 am on Friday 3 January 2014. Some checks have been made on the data, but it is possible that results will change as new information becomes available.

Averages 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 20 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.

The ACORN-SAT dataset is being used for temperature area averages from December 2012 onwards. The major change from earlier datasets is that the ACORN-SAT dataset commences in 1910, rather than 1950, and hence rankings are calculated using a larger set of years.

Further information

Media
(03) 9669 4057
Enquiries