Australia in January 2012

In Brief

January rainfall was generally above average for most of the country, but below average for parts of northern central Australia and the tropical north. Temperatures were very much cooler than average across most of Western Australia and the mid east coast. The far west coast and parts of the Top End had warmer than average temperatures, while over night temperatures were generally above average across the south.


Temperatures, both maximum and minimum, were very much cooler than average across most of Western Australia and the mid east coast, while this was largely due to the high rainfall and associated cloud in these areas suppressing daytime temperatures, minima were also below average. The far west coast and parts of the Top End had warmer than average temperatures, while over night temperatures were generally above average across the south.

Averaged over Australia, daytime temperatures were 0.43 °C below average (the 13th coolest year on record, out of 63). New South Wales and Western Australia recorded maximum temperatures 0.74 and 1.51 °C below average, respectively. For Western Australia it was the third coolest January on record, despite the continued prevalence of warmer than average maxima along the west coast from Carnarvon to Albany. For a large area of inland Western Australia, January maxima were more than 5 °C below average for the month. Perth experienced a heatwave in the later part of the month, with five days (between the 24th and 28th) above 35 °C. During the event, high temperatures, especially in the Central West district, and strong winds associated with tropical cyclone Iggy, fanned a bushfire burning out of control north of Perth and led to widespread fire weather warnings in the west of the state.

Maxima were below average for a large area of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, and above average for the Top End, parts of central Australia, the tip of Cape York, Tasmania, and western Victoria and the adjacent southeast corner of South Australia.

Minimum temperatures, averaged over Australia, were 0.06 °C above average, ranking near the median of the 62 years on record. The distribution of areas above and below average was similar to that for maximum temperatures, except that areas with warmer than normal temperatures were more broad, taking in most of the southern coast states and Tasmania, extending up through central Australia to the Top End, and sweeping up the west coast of Western Australia. In the far southwest of Western Australia minima were the warmest on record (1 to 2 °C above average), while in the inland districts temperatures were very much below average (up to 3 °C cooler than average).

Areal average temperatures
  Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature
(out of 63)
Comment Rank
(out of 63)
Australia 13 −0.43 lowest since 2000 30 +0.06
Queensland 31 −0.04 19 −0.45 lowest since 2000
New South Wales 16 −0.74 lowest since 2000 31 +0.06
Victoria 42 +1.03 48 +1.52
Tasmania 57 +2.22 56 +1.27
South Australia 33 +0.23 53 +1.51
Western Australia 3 −1.51 third lowest; record is −2.81 (2000) 15 −0.39 lowest since 2002
Northern Territory 37.5# +0.44 37 +0.19

*Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961-1990) average.
#Indicates that the value is tied for that rank.

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


Averaged over Australia, rainfall was 13.8% above average, ranking as the 33rd wettest January in the 113 years of record.

January rainfall was very much above average for parts of the east coast between Rockhampton and Port Macquarie (in southeast Queensland and north coast New South Wales respectively), as well as through southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, and a large area of central and north-western Western Australia (see rainfall decile map below). For New South Wales it was the wettest January since 1996 (22.11% above average). Rainfall was below average for parts of Victoria and Tasmania, northern central Australia, and the tropical north. The Northern Territory, as a whole, recorded rainfall 29.6% below the January average. Scattered small areas of the Northern Territory and the far north of Cape York recorded their driest January on record.

Despite the generally drier than average conditions across the north, an active monsoon trough was present throughout most of the month. Along with a number of easterly troughs, some extending as far south as Victoria, the monsoon trough was responsible for much of January’s rain. Heavy rainfall from surface troughs associated with the monsoon trough brought flooding to southern Queensland, northern New South Wales, and the east coast of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

A tropical low in the later part of the month moved over the Top End travelling southwest from Darwin before turning back eastwards to the Gulf Country, tracking south-eastwards in central Queensland before dissipating near the New South Wales border, contributing to flooding in parts of the north, western and southern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. Strong winds caused some damage, including bringing trees down onto powerlines in the outskirts of Darwin.

Tropical cyclone Iggy tracked along the Western Australian coast in the last week of the month, bringing heavy rain and some flooding to coastal areas of north-western Western Australia.

Areal average rainfall
(out of 113)
from mean*
Australia 81 90.88 +13.8%
Queensland 75 135.89 +7.3%
New South Wales 99 87.70 +22.11% highest since 1996
Victoria 50 32.33 −18.6%
Tasmania 55 74.28 −2.2%
South Australia 78 21.15 −17.5%
Western Australia 103 97.86 +72.5%
Northern Territory 41 84.61 −29.6%
Murray-Darling Basin 98 82.52 +49.6%

*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 spring 2011
Hottest day 47.5 °C at Birdsville (QLD) on the 7th January
Coldest day 0.6 °C at Mt Hotham (VIC) on the 11th January
Coldest night −3.7 °C at Thredbo AWS (NSW) on the 12th January
Warmest night 32.8 °C at Birdsville (QLD) on the 21st January
Wettest day 291.0 mm at Springbrook Rd (QLD) on the 25th January


The Seasonal 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 2pm EST on Wednesday 1 January 2012. 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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