Australia in February 2011

In Brief

February was generally wet across most of Austalia, particularly so across the south of the mainland, while much of Queensland and northeast New South Wales saw average or below average conditions and southwest Western Australia continued to experience typical dry summer conditions. Rainfall in South Australia was the highest on record for February, and the second highest for Western Australia and Australia as a whole.

It was a warm month in terms of both maximum and minimum temperatures for the west coast of Western Australia and the region between Sydney and Brisbane. Generally, elsewhere maxima were below average while minima were above average across the south and only below average in small areas of the north.


Maximum temperatures were above average to very much above average along the coast of Western Australia between Carnarvon and Albany, along the coast of New South Wales and Queensland between Moruya Heads (south of Wollongong) and Brisbane, stretching inland northwest from Sydney towards Charleville, and in a small area around Bundaberg. Maxima were cooler than average across most of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, western and central South Australia, most of Victoria and Tasmania, southern New South Wales and parts of northern Queensland. Very much below average temperatures were recorded in the north of the Northern Territory and western Kimberley, the Pilbara and northwest Gascoyne districts, and across a large area of southern Western Australia extending into western South Australia. Averaged across Australia, maximum temperatures were 1.36 °C below average, the fifth lowest on record for February.

In south-eastern Western Australia maxima were the lowest on record with anomalies cooler than −5 °C; a small area near Port Hedland also observed record low maximum temperatures although anomalies here were smaller at −3 °C. The largest positive anomalies were recorded in Western Australia between Perth and Cape Leeuwin, and around Denham where maxima were 3 °C above average, and in small parts of this area, highest on record. Overall, maximum temperatures for Western Australia were the third lowest on record.

Minimum temperatures were generally above normal across the southern half of Australia, below normal in small areas of the north and near normal through the remainder of the north and central regions, as well as across Tasmania. Averaged over Australia, February minimum temperatures were 0.53 °C above normal. Minima were very much above average along the West Australian coast between Onslow in the Pilbara and Hopetoun on the southern coast and reached record highs around Cape Leeuwin and in a large area of the western Gascoyne (anomalies of 3 to 4 °C above average). Very much above average minima were also recorded in coastal southeast Western Australia and southwest South Australia, and along the New South Wales coast from Merimbula to just south of Coffs Harbour and extending inland from Newcastle northwest across the Queensland border.

Areal average temperatures
  Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature
(out of 62)
Comment Rank
(out of 62)
Australia 5 −1.36 5th lowest; record is −2.20 (1974) 48 +0.53
Queensland 30.5 −0.14 35.5 0.18
New South Wales 33 0.11 52 +1.31
Victoria 11.5 −1.65 48 +1.26
Tasmania 25 −0.59 29 −0.22
South Australia 13.5 −1.36 53 +1.53
Western Australia 3 −2.22 3rd lowest; record is −2.67 (1967) 43 +0.47
Northern Territory 7 −2.27 Lowest since 1993 17.5 −0.21 Lowest since 1990

*Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961-1990) average.

Temperature maps
Map of mean daily maximum temperature Map of mean daily maximum temperature anomalies Map of mean daily maximum temperature deciles
Map of mean daily minimum temperature Map of mean daily minimum temperature anomalies Map of mean daily minimum temperature deciles


Area averaged February rainfall for Australia as a whole was the second highest on record (76% above normal). Falls were above average across most of the country, with very much above average rainfall in southern Western Australia (excluding the southwest), the southern Northern Territory, most of South Australia, southern New South Wales, northern and central Victoria as well as in scattered areas of northern Australia. Areas of record breaking rain were recorded in small areas across the north, and scattered along the band of significantly above average rain stretching from Carnarvon in the west, through South Australia and along the New South Wales-Victoria border in the east. Much of this region received at least 400% of their mean February rainfall. South Australia’s area averaged February total (100.5 mm) was the highest on record (414% above the mean) while Western Australia's was the second highest on record (138.9 mm, 130% above the mean). Heavy rain in the northern tropics was associated with a number of Tropical Cyclones and ex-Tropical Cyclones as well as an active monsoon trough; interaction between the remnants of these cyclones and several cold fronts were largely responsible for heavy rain in the southern regions.

In Victoria, the Melbourne Metropolitan area, the North Mallee district and much of eastern Victoria experienced extreme rainfall between the 4th and the 6th of February, with daily totals at many stations equivalent to what would fall over an entire average summer. The exceptionally high daily rainfall totals resulted in severe flash flooding in numerous locations, with Mildura and the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne the most severely affected (see Special Climate Statement 28). In the Northern Territory, Darwin recorded its wettest day (367.6 mm on the 16th, resulting from a tropical low which later developed into Tropical Cyclone Carlos, see Special Climate Statement 29) and wettest calendar month (1110.2 mm, beating 1013.6 mm in March 1977).

Tasmania received average to above average rainfall while southwest Western Australia and an area covering north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern and central Queensland were the only significant areas to record below average rainfall. The southwest region of Western Australia remained relatively dry over the month and in both this area and the northern New South Wales-Queensland region totals approximately 40% of the February mean were widespread.

Areal average rainfall
(out of 112)
from mean*
Australia 111 134.0 +76% 2nd highest; record is 145.5 mm (2000)
Queensland 69 132.9 +15%
New South Wales 94 85.0 +68%
Victoria 108 109.6 +243% 5th highest; record is 145.1 mm (1973)
Tasmania 80 89.2 +35%
South Australia 112 100.5 +414% Highest on record; previous record 80.1 mm (1976)
Western Australia 111 138.9 +130% 2nd highest; record is 162.4 mm (1995)
Northern Territory 96 188.2 +56%
Murray-Darling Basin 102 81.1 +101%

*The mean is calculated for the 1961-1990 reference period.

Rainfall maps
Map of total rainfall Map of percentage of normal rain Map of rainfall deciles

Australian weather extremes in February 2011
Hottest day 45.0 °C at Port Augusta (SA) on the 2nd
Coldest day 4.5 °C at Mount Read (Tas) on the 20th
Coldest night −2.5 °C at Mount Wellington (Tas) on the 21st
Warmest night 31.7 °C at Meekatharra (WA) on the 10th
Wettest day 435.4 mm at Marrara (NT) on the 16th


The Monthly Climate Summary is prepared to list the main features of the weather in Australia using the most timely and accurate information available on the date of publication; it will generally not be updated.

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 12 noon on Tuesday 1 March 2011. Some checks have been made on the data, but it is possible that results will change as new information becomes available, especially for rainfall where much more data becomes available as returns are received from volunteers.

Long-term averages in this statement and associated tables are for the period 1961 to 1990 unless otherwise specified.

In the tables, fractional ranks denote tied values.

A new area-averaging method was adopted for rainfall in May 2009. Current and historical totals for Tasmania are substantially higher than under the old scheme, but differences for other states, and nationally, are negligible. The rankings and departures from mean shown here use the new method.

Further information

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