Northern Territory in 2020: fifth-warmest year on record; close to average rainfall

2020 saw much warmer than average temperatures across the Northern Territory. The Territory-wide maximum, minimum and mean temperatures were all above average, and the fifth-, second- and fifth-warmest respectively, since records commenced in 1910. Every month apart from May and December recorded above average maximum and mean temperatures. Rainfall for the year was marginally below the long-term average, with only 4 months recording above average totals across the NT during the year.

Warm days and nights across the Territory

Slightly less than average rainfall

  • Rainfall was variable by region and month across the NT in 2020: Territory-wide, annual rainfall was 10% below the long-term average.
  • January, February, October and December had rainfall totals above average, with September being equal to the long-term mean.
  • Parts of the Top End and the southwest of the NT had the most significant rainfall deficiencies, while parts across the central belt of the Northern Territory saw widespread areas of greater than average rainfall.
  • The only notable rainfall records related to tropical low/cyclone activity, mostly early in 2020: two sites in the north-west Top End had their highest daily rainfall on record in January, including Dum In Mirrie which had the highest daily rainfall ever recorded in the NT, as the low which became tropical cyclone Claudia passed nearby,
  • Bullo River in the Gregory District had its highest daily rainfall on record in February, as tropical cyclone Esther passed nearby; in December, a tropical low and associated trough led to record rainfall at Mount Denison in the south-western NT.
  • 19 December was the official monsoon onset date at Darwin for the 2020-21 northern wet season, more than a week earlier than average (29 December).

Darwin Airport

  • Total rainfall for Darwin Airport was 1740.2 mm, which is 101% of the long-term average of 1723.0 mm.
  • The mean daily maximum temperature for Darwin Airport was 33.1 °C, which is 1.0 °C above the long-term average of 32.1 °C.
  • The warmest day was 37.0 °C on 17 November and 8 September, and the coolest day was on 22 May when the temperature reached 25.0 °C.
  • Darwin Airport had 44 days of 35 °C or more, compared to the annual record of 45 (set in 2019), and long-term average of 12 such days; record monthly number of days of 35 °C or above were set in June, August and November 2020.
  • The mean daily minimum temperature for Darwin Airport was 23.9 °C, which is 0.7 °C above the long-term average of 23.2 °C.
  • The coldest morning was 16.2 °C on 30 July, and the warmest morning was on 26 February when the minimum temperature was 29.7 °C.
  • Darwin Airport had 46 daily minimum temperatures below 20 °C during dry-season 2020, just below the long-term average of 51 such nights.

Alice Springs Airport

  • Total annual rainfall for Alice Springs Airport was 245.0 mm, which is 87% of the long-term average of 282.3 mm.
  • The annual mean daily maximum temperature for Alice Springs Airport was 30.2 °C, which is 1.3 °C above the long-term average of 28.9 °C.
  • The warmest day was 43.7 °C on 28 November, and the coolest day was on 5 October when the temperature reached 13.0 °C.
  • Alice Springs Airport had 115 days of 35 °C or more in 2020, compared to the annual record of 137, and long-term average of 92 such days; the November total of 25 such days was the highest on record for that month.
  • The annual mean daily minimum temperature for Alice Springs Airport was 14.2 °C, which is 1.0 °C above the long-term average of 13.2 °C.
  • The coldest morning in 2020 was -0.9 °C on 28 June, and the warmest morning was on 10 January, when the minimum temperature was 31.0 °C.
  • Alice Springs Airport had 16 sub-zero nights, slightly up on the long-term average of 13.

Tropical cyclones

  • Two tropical cyclones affected the Northern Territory in 2020: the tropical low which became TC Claudia passed over the northern Top End in early January, while TC Esther made landfall near the Queensland border before twice crossing central parts of the NT in late February to early March.

Further information

Media
(03) 9669 4057

Extremes in 2020
Hottest day 46.0 °C at Jervois on 5 Dec
Warmest days on average 36.3 °C at Bradshaw
Coolest days on average 30.2 °C at Alice Springs Airport
30.2 °C at McCluer Island
Coldest day 12.5 °C at Arltunga on 5 Oct
12.5 °C at Watarrka on 5 Oct
12.5 °C at Watarrka on 6 Oct
Coldest night -4.2 °C at Arltunga on 25 Jun
Coolest nights on average 14.2 °C at Alice Springs Airport
Warmest nights on average 26.1 °C at McCluer Island
Warmest night 33.8 °C at Walungurru Airport on 14 Jan
Warmest on average overall 29.6 °C at Bradshaw
Coolest on average overall 22.2 °C at Alice Springs Airport
Wettest overall 2291.6 mm at Wagait Beach
Wettest day 562.0 mm at Dum In Mirrie Airstrip on 11 Jan
Strongest wind gust 115 km/h at Bradshaw on 11 Nov

Maps
ObservedAnomalyDecile rank
Total
rainfall
Map of Rainfall totals Map of Percentage of normal rainfall Map of Rainfall deciles
Mean
daily
maximum
temperatures
Map of Mean maximum temperature Map of Anomaly in mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature
Mean
daily
minimum
temperatures
Map of Mean minimum temperature Map of Anomaly in mean minimum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature

Click on a map to show it full size in a pop-up window


Monthly maps
Rainfall rankMaximum temperature rankMinimum temperature rank
January Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
February Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
March Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
April Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
May Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
June Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
July Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
August Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
September Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
October Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
November Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature
December Map of Rainfall deciles Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature

Click on a map to show it full size in a pop-up window


Record highest daily rainfall
New record
(mm)
Old
record
Years of
record
Mount Denison 151.0 on 22 Dec 135.0 on 16 Jan 1979 55
Bullo River 226.0 on 28 Feb 219.0 on 30 Oct 1975 36
Wagait Beach 515.2 on 11 Jan 367.0 on 16 Feb 2011 33
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 562.0 on 11 Jan 345.6 on 20 Feb 2008 27



Record highest annual mean daily maximum temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Annual
average
Tindal RAAF 35.6 = 35.6 in 2019 31 34.0
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 32.8 = 32.8 in 2016 20 31.9



Record highest daily minimum temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Annual
average
Middle Point 28.8 on 26 Feb 27.7 on 12 Dec 2018 20 20.6



Record highest annual mean daily minimum temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Annual
average
Tennant Creek Airport 21.1 = 21.1 in 1988 50 19.9

Highest annual mean daily minimum temperature for at least 20 years
Observed
(°C)
Most recent
higher
Annual
average
Yulara Airport 15.2 15.5 in 1998 14.1



Summary statistics for 2020
Maximum temperatures
(°C)
Minimum temperatures
(°C)
Rainfall
(millimetres)
Mean
for
2020
Diff
from
average
Highest
for
2020
Mean
for
2020
Diff
from
average
Lowest
for
2020
Total
for
2020
Average
annual
total
Rank
of
2020
Fraction
of annual
average
Darwin-Daly (district 14GA)
Batchelor Airport 34.2 +0.4 39.9 2 Nov 21.7 +0.6 11.5 30 Jul 1403.6 1529.0 average 92%
Central Arnhem Plateau 32.8 +0.6 39.1 2 Nov 21.0 +0.5 9.6 29 Jul 1399.6 1152.3 average 121%
Charles Point 31.5   35.5 10 Nov 24.5   16.8 31 Jul 1545.0
Croker Island Airport 32.0   37.3 2 Nov 24.5   17.0 31 Jul 1358.6
Darwin Airport 33.1 +1.0 37.0 17 Nov 23.9 +0.7 16.2 30 Jul 1740.2 1723.0 average 101%
Delamere Weapons Range 34.7 +0.7 42.1 3 Nov 21.6 +0.7 9.2 24 May 809.6 852.1 average 95%
Douglas River Research Farm 35.1 +0.7 40.5 2 Oct 20.5 +0.6 7.3 5 Jun 1224.8 1245.2 average 98%
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 32.8 +0.9 37.5 8 Sep 23.3 0.0 11.0 31 Jul 2214.4 1782.2 high 124%
Jabiru Airport 35.3 +0.9 41.9 2 Nov 23.5 +0.8 13.1 31 Jul 1321.8 1547.8 average 85%
Kangaroo Flats (Defence) 34.8   40.3 2 Nov 22.6   11.4 30 Jul 1791.0
McCluer Island 30.2 +0.1 34.7 7 Nov 26.1 +0.6 20.5 30 Jul 1112.2 1151.2 average 97%
Middle Point 34.7 +0.3 40.5 2 Nov 21.0 +0.4 6.2 30 Jul 1484.4 1373.1 average 108%
Mount Bundey North (Defence) 34.9   40.4 2 Nov 22.9   13.9 29 Jul 1393.2
Mount Bundey South (Defence) 35.2   40.5 2 Nov 22.2   10.2 31 Jul 1238.0
Murganella Airstrip 33.0   39.4 7 Nov 21.8   9.3 29 Jul 1433.2
Noonamah Airstrip 34.5   39.0 18 Nov 22.4   8.9 30 Jul 1865.2
Oenpelli Airport 35.2   41.7 2 Nov 23.1   11.2 31 Jul 1386.4
Pirlangimpi Airport 32.9 +0.4 36.6 15 Nov 22.9 +0.6 12.0 31 Jul 1856.2 1986.4 average 93%
Point Fawcett 32.6 +0.8 36.2 8 Nov 22.8 +0.2 11.3 31 Jul 1576.4 1573.1 average 100%
Port Keats Airport 33.4 +0.3 38.0 14 Mar 22.7 +0.8 10.3 5 Jun 1199.6 1284.3 average 93%
Tindal RAAF 35.6 +1.6 42.4 2 Nov 21.2 +0.8 7.3 30 Jul 811.8 1066.4 low 76%
Arnhem (district 14BC)
Cape Wessel 32.4   36.8 4 Jan 25.6   22.1 18 Aug 1091.4 1245.3 average 88%
Gove Airport 31.7 +0.9 37.2 30 Oct     14.6 18 Aug 933.8 1431.8 v low 65%
Groote Eylandt Airport 32.8 +0.6 39.6 2 Nov 21.4 +0.5 8.7 30 Jul 976.2 1275.3 low 77%
Maningrida Airport 32.7 +0.4 37.9 15 Nov 22.7 +0.3 13.5 30 Jul 1391.0 1234.6 high 113%
Milingimbi Airport 33.1 +0.8 37.1 15 Nov 23.4 +0.3 14.4 31 Jul 1239.2 1136.8 average 109%
Warruwi Airport 31.8 +0.5 37.7 7 Nov 24.9 +0.5 19.2 19 Aug 1420.6 1136.7 high 125%
Roper-Mcarthur (district 14DE)
Borroloola Airport 35.2 +1.2 44.2 18 Jan 20.0 +0.4 5.1 14 Jul 913.8 898.6 average 102%
Centre Island 31.9 +0.6 40.6 18 Jan 24.3 +0.4 14.4 23 May 1409.6 1037.6 high 136%
Daly Waters Airstrip 35.1 +1.1 43.3 26 Nov 19.7 +0.6 6.0 24 May 951.2 678.1 high 140%
McArthur River Mine Airport 35.5 +0.8 43.8 26 Nov 20.4 +0.6 4.4 14 Jul 1293.0 772.9 v high 167%
Ngukurr Airport 35.8   43.9 26 Nov 21.5   7.1 30 Jul 1001.4
Victoria (district 14F)
Bradshaw 36.3 +0.8 42.7 2 Nov 22.8 +1.0 9.9 15 Jul 818.6 947.5 average 86%
Bradshaw - Angallari Valley (Defence) 35.9   43.0 26 Nov 23.0   10.4 15 Jul 528.2
Bradshaw - Koolendong Valley (Defence) 35.5   42.8 16 Nov 19.8   4.0 29 Jul 1349.4
Lajamanu Airport 34.8 +0.9 44.8 27 Nov 19.8 +1.7 4.9 14 Jul 734.0 505.8 high 145%
Victoria River Downs 35.6 +1.1 44.2 12 Nov 20.4 +0.8 5.7 14 Jul 786.2 650.0 high 121%
Barkly (district 15A)
Elliott 34.6 0.0 44.3 12 Nov 20.2 +1.0 6.0 14 Jul 797.9 590.5 high 135%
Tennant Creek Airport 33.3 +1.3 43.8 15 Jan 21.1 +1.2 6.7 23 May 556.0 466.7 high 119%
Alice Springs (district 15B)
Alice Springs Airport 30.2 +1.3 43.7 28 Nov 14.2 +1.0 -0.9 28 Jun 245.0 282.3 average 87%
Jervois 31.6 +0.6 46.0 5 Dec 15.4 +0.7 0.2 14 Jul 324.8 287.7 average 113%
Rabbit Flat 34.5 +0.6 45.2 28 Nov     1.3 15 Jul 747.4 471.5 high 159%
Territory Grape Farm 31.5 +0.5 44.0 15 Jan 15.5 +0.9 0.0 13 Jul 514.8 313.7 v high 164%
Walungurru Airport 33.5 +0.6 45.3 28 Nov 20.7 +1.3 8.1 22 Jun 132.4 270.8 low 49%
Yulara Airport 31.3 +1.1 45.2 28 Nov 15.2 +1.1 -0.4 24 Jun 115.8 268.4 low 43%

Notes

The Annual climate summary, generally published on the second working day of the year, lists the main features of the weather in Northern 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 statement has been prepared based on information available at Friday 8 January 2021. 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

Climate