Australia in March 2012

In Brief

Rainfall during March was very much above average for the south-eastern mainland, and above average for most of the north and central Australia. The coastal fringe of southwestern WA, parts of the WA interior and an area around the eastern Queensland–NSW border received below-average rainfall. Maximum temperatures were generally below average, with only the coastal strip extending from Carnarvon to southwest WA recording above-average temperatures. Minimum temperatures were generally below average through the continental interior, with parts of the coast and most of Tasmania recording above-average March minima.


Temperatures

Averaged over Australia, daytime temperatures were 1.64 °C below average, the third-coolest March on record. New South Wales recorded maximum temperatures 1.95 °C below average (fourth-coolest of 63 years of record). Tasmania was the only state not to record maxima in the ten coolest years on record, and to record a positive anomaly for either maxima or minima; Tasmanian maxima and minima for March were both near-average. For Australia as a whole, March overnight temperatures were the coolest since 1997; 0.77 °C below average.

Maximum temperatures were below average across most of Australia during March, as is typically associated with periods of above-average rainfall. Maxima for Tasmania and much of the eastern coastal fringes of Queensland, most of the Top End, and much of the southern coastline from western Victoria to southwest WA were near-average. The western coast of WA south of Carnarvon recorded March maxima which were above, or very much above, average. Perth experienced four consecutive days over 38 °C, equalling the March record also held by 1922 and 2003. Perth maximum temperatures between the 9th and 12th of March reached 38.9 °C, 39.5 °C, 41.4 °C, and 40.6 °C respectively.

Overnight temperatures were above average across most of far northern Queensland, parts of the northern NT, most of Tasmania, and other small areas. Most of inland WA, central Australia, western NSW, and much of southern Queensland recorded below-average March minimum temperatures. Despite having a warm month, Tasmania saw a cold snap towards the end of the month, with unusually cold overnight temperatures, 5–11 °C below average for March, bringing snowfall to the west coast. Mount Read recorded an equal-second coldest March maximum temperature for Tasmania, with 0.0 °C on March 23, while Hobart recorded its coldest March day in 15 years , reaching only 12.4 °C.


Areal average temperatures
  Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature
Rank
(out of 63)
Anomaly*
( °C)
Comment Rank
(out of 63)
Anomaly*
( °C)
Comment
Australia 3 −1.6 third lowest 11 −0.8 lowest since 1997
Queensland 8 −1.4 27 −0.5
New South Wales 4 −2.0 fourth lowest, lowest since 1994 17 −0.9
Victoria 9 −1.5 33  0.0
Tasmania 33 +0.1 48# +0.5
South Australia 8 −1.6 19 −0.9
Western Australia 8 −1.6 9 −0.9
Northern Territory 6 −2.0 13 −1.0

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


Temperature maps
MeanAnomalyDeciles
Mean
daily
maximum
temperatures
Map of mean daily maximum temperature Map of mean daily maximum temperature anomalies Map of mean daily maximum temperature deciles
Mean
daily
minimum
temperatures
Map of mean daily minimum temperature Map of mean daily minimum temperature anomalies Map of mean daily minimum temperature deciles

Rainfall

Averaged over Australia rainfall was 77% above average, ranking as the fourth-wettest March in 113 years of record. March was particularly wet for the eastern states, with areas of northern Victoria, southern and western NSW, northeast SA, and northern Queensland recording their highest March rainfall. For Victoria as a whole, March rainfall was 152% above average and the fourth-highest area-averaged total on record; NSW received 119.6 mm (144% above average), the second-highest on record; rainfall in the Murray-Darling Basin was 139% above average and fourth-highest on record; and for SA, rainfall was 127% above average. A very wet start to the month for southeast Australia (see Special Climate Statement 39), with record-high daily and multi-day rainfall totals across large areas, resulted in widespread flooding across much of northern Victoria, southern and western NSW and the Illawarra, the ACT, and central Australia. Further heavy rainfall was associated with a tropical low offshore of southeast Queensland and an east coast low near Sydney in the first part of the month exacerbated flooding in the Murrumbidgee and Murray-Darling catchments.

The monsoon trough was active for much of the month, bringing above-average rainfall across much of the north. Following a tropical low which battered Darwin and the eastern Top End and western Kimberley, tropical cyclone Lua brought further heavy rainfall to the Kimberley and interior regions of WA in mid-March. Later in March, monsoon lows brought heavy rain to northern Queensland, with particularly large falls in the Cape York region and major flooding in Cairns, Innisfail, Ingham and Mackay. A low pressure system over Queensland’s Sunshine Coast also brought torrential rain resulting in flash flooding and damage to over 800 homes.

For the month as a whole, only an area of northeastern NSW and adjacent southeast Queensland recorded below average rainfall in the east. A small area of SA to the south of Cook, nearby areas of southern WA immediately inland from the coast, a larger area of the WA interior near the WA-NT-SA border, and a strip of coast in southwest WA extending from Shark Bay south to approximately half way between Albany and Esperance recorded rainfall which was below to very much below average. Small areas of those regions in WA recorded their lowest March rainfall on record.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(out of 113)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean*
Comment
Australia 110 108.7  +77% fourth highest
Queensland 107 171.5  +89%
New South Wales 112 119.6 +144% second highest; record is 155.31 (1956)
Victoria 110 103.5 +152% fourth highest; highest since 1950
Tasmania 86 109.9  +22%
South Australia 106 42.8 +127%
Western Australia 88 70.8  +62%
Northern Territory 95 141.9  +45%
Murray-Darling Basin 110 92.1 +139% fourth highest

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


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


Australian weather extremes in March 2012
Hottest day  44.6 °C  at Kalbarri (WA) on 9 March
Coldest day    0.0 °C  at Mount Read (Tas) on 23 March
Coldest night  −4.0 °C  at Perisher Valley AWS (NSW) on 25 March
Warmest night   29.9 °C at Thevenard Island (WA) on 10 March
Wettest day 342.2 mm at Daradgee (Qld) on 26 March


Notes

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.


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