Australia in February 2012

In Brief

February rainfall was generally above average for the south-eastern mainland, and below average for parts of northern Australia, particularly northern Western Australia and the Top End. Minimum temperatures were generally below average, with coastal areas, southwest Western Australia, and Tasmania warmer than average. Across the tropical north and Tasmania maximum temperatures were above average, while a large area of southeastern Australia recorded below average over night temperatures.


Maximum temperatures were above average across the tropical north of Australia and Tasmania during February. Meanwhile, persistent rainfall and cloud-cover was associated with maximum temperatures below to very much below average across most of New South Wales, north-eastern Victoria, and a large part of southern Queensland. An area of South Australia around and north of Spencer Gulf also recorded maxima below average.

Below average minima were widespread. Northern New South Wales; Queensland, excluding the eastern coastal strip; the Northern Territory, excluding the coastal area of the Top End, the north west and interior of Western Australia, and northern South Australia recorded minimum temperatures below to very much below average. February minima were above average for Tasmania, southern Victoria and the adjacent south-eastern coast of South Australia, southwest Western Australia and the eastern coastal fringe of tropical and northern Queensland, as well as the western Top End.

Averaged over Australia, daytime temperatures were 0.30 °C below average. New South Wales recorded maximum temperatures 1.94 °C below average, while Tasmania’s area-averaged maximum temperature was 1.41 °C above average. Bushfires in Tasmania in late February burnt thousands of hectares in the upper Derwent Valley.

For Queensland, February overnight temperatures were the third coolest on record, and coolest since 1953, while in the Northern Territory February nights were the coolest since 1976. Small areas of both recorded area-averaged lowest-on-record February average minima. Minimum temperatures, averaged over Australia, were 0.72 °C below average, making it the eighth coolest February on record and the coolest since 1990.

Areal average temperatures
  Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature
(out of 63)
Comment Rank
(out of 63)
Australia 25 −0.30 8 −0.72 lowest since 1990
Queensland 24 −0.40 3 −1.13 third lowest; record is −2.04 (1953)
New South Wales 7 −1.94 15# −0.76
Victoria 33 +0.22 44 +0.79
Tasmania 55 +1.41 56 +1.38
South Australia 19 −0.76 13 −0.98
Western Australia 33 −0.02 19 −0.37
Northern Territory 39 +0.58 8 −1.01 lowest since 1976

*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 11.9% below average, ranking as the 44th driest February in 113 years of record. However this result was a combination of disparate conditions across the country; most of the southeast, excluding Tasmania, received above average rainfall, while significantly below-average rainfall was mostly restricted to areas of northern Australia, particularly the Top End and northern Western Australia, and scattered parts of southern Australia, including southern Tasmania.

February rainfall was above average for most of the southeast and central mainland, covering eastern Victoria, most of New South Wales, parts of central and southern Queensland, and much of South Australia and adjacent parts of central Australia. New South Wales February rainfall was 96.7% above average, and Victoria’s rainfall was 73.7% above average; in Victoria’s case, about half the rainfall recorded for the month fell in the last two days. Rainfall was below average for much of the Top End and the Kimberley, western Victoria, adjacent border regions of South Australia, and southern Tasmania, and also for small scattered areas elsewhere, mostly across the north of the country.

Rainfall early in the month was dominated by the influence of an inland trough extending from Cape York through central New South Wales, triggering heavy rainfall in a broad band. Inland southern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales suffered extensive flooding as a result, with communities from Charleville, to St George, Moree, and Wee Waa affected as the water progressed into northern New South Wales.

Although the monsoon trough contributed to heavy falls in northern Queensland in the early part of the month, for much of February the monsoon was in a break phase with low rainfall totals resulting in below average rainfall for northern parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Across southern parts of the country rainfall mostly resulted from a series of cold fronts and persistent low pressure troughs, several of which were associated with widespread thunderstorms and very heavy rainfall. In the last days of February, a slow moving low pressure trough extending from central Australia through Victoria and very moist tropical airflow brought record breaking rainfall for central and northern Victoria, extending into southern New South Wales, causing flash flooding in some areas. The trough then brought particularly heavy falls in a wide band stretching from central Australia, through northern South Australia and western New South Wales to the Illawarra, causing further flooding and road closures.

Area-average rainfall
(out of 113)
from mean*
Australia 44 67.04 −11.9%
Queensland 47 108.37 −6.3%
New South Wales 101 99.65 +96.7%
Victoria 91 55.54 +73.7%
Tasmania 34 48.42 −26.7%
South Australia 86 31.83 +62.9%
Western Australia 45 36.98 −38.8%
Northern Territory 39 78.90 −34.6%
Murray-Darling Basin 101 79.05 +95.8%

*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 2012
Hottest day 45.7 °C at Roebourne (WA) on the 16th February
Coldest day 6.1 °C at Mount Wellington (Tas) on the 8th February
Coldest night −0.3 °C at Liawenee (Tas) on the 24th February
Warmest night 31.1 °C at Birdsville Airport (Qld) on the 20th February
Wettest day 264.6 mm at Noosaville (Qld) on the 25th February


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 Thursday 1 March 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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