Australia in May 2012

In Brief

May rainfall was below average across most of Australia. Above-average rainfall was recorded in Tasmania, parts of southern Victoria around Port Phillip Bay to South Gippsland, small areas of coastal southeastern South Australia, and across the northern and eastern Northern Territory and much of Queensland. Maximum temperatures were generally above average across Western Australian, parts of the inland in the south and east of Australia, and northeastern Tasmania. Maximum temperatures were below average for much of the north. Below-average minimum temperatures were widespread, covering a wide swathe from north-western Western Australia through to the southeastern states. Minimum temperatures were above average in far northern Queensland, Tasmania, coastal central and western Victoria, and small areas of Western Australia.


Averaged over Australia, May daytime temperatures were above average, with a national anomaly of +0.3 °C. Western Australia recorded maximum temperatures 1.0 °C above average, mostly owing to very dry conditions in that State and above-average sea surface temperatures off the western coast. For Australia as a whole, May overnight temperatures were the fifth-coolest on record, 1.6 °C below average. Tasmania was the only State to record a positive anomaly for minima, +1.1 °C. The other regions generally recorded minima 1.0 to 2.5 °C below average. New South Wales and the Murray-Darling Basin recorded their third-coolest May (anomalies of −2.5 °C and −2.3 °C, respectively), while May was the fourth-coolest on record for South Australia (−1.5 °C) and fifth-coolest for Western Australia (−1.2 °C).

Maximum temperatures were above average across Western Australian (and adjacent parts of central Australia), except in the Kimberley. Maxima were most significantly above average along the western coast and in a region of the Interior near Giles. A region around Carnarvon recorded highest-on-record May maxima; temperatures in this region were more than 2 °C above average for the month. A large area around the intersecton of the South Australia-Queensland-New South Wales borders, a region around the western New South Wales-Victoria border, a region around the mid-north coast of New South Wales, and north-eastern Tasmania also recorded above-average maxima. Maximum temperatures were below average for much of the tropical north, extending from the eastern Kimberley, through the northern half of the Northern Territory, and taking in most of northern Queensland to about Rockhampton. Scattered areas of the Kimberley and Northern Territory, and a larger region of the eastern Gulf Country and adjacent inland recorded maxima in the lowest decile (lowest 10% of record).

May minima were below average across the north of Western Australia, most of the Northern Territory excluding the Top End and Roper-McArthur District, South Australia excluding parts of the south-eastern coast, northern Victoria, New South Wales, southern Queensland and a large part of inland western Queensland. Within this region, minima were in the lowest decile across most of New South Wales and adjacent parts of South Australia, Central Australia, and much of the Kimberley; May minimum temperatures 3 to 4 °C below average were recorded in parts of these regions. Overnight temperatures were above to very much above average in far northern Queensland and on the eastern coast of the Cape York Peninsula, Tasmania excluding the very northeast corner, coastal Victoria from just across the South Australian border to Wilsons Promontory, and parts of Western Australia including a strip extending north from the south coast adjacent to the South Australian border.

Areal average temperatures
  Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature
(out of 63)
Comment Rank
(out of 63)
Australia 39 +0.3 5 −1.6 fifth lowest
Queensland 24.5 −0.3 15 −1.4
New South Wales 39 +0.6 3 −2.5 third lowest
Victoria 34 +0.2 11 −1.1
Tasmania 34 +0.1 54 +1.1
South Australia 41 +0.7 4 −1.5 fourth lowest
Western Australia 49 +1.0 5 −1.2 fifth lowest
Northern Territory 20.5 −0.7 8 −2.2

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


May saw a continuation of the dry conditions prevalent across most of Australia away from the northern tropics since the conclusion of the 2011–12 La Niña. Averaged over Australia, May rainfall was 40% below average, ranking as the 34th-driest in 113 years of record. May rainfall was above average for most of northern and central Queensland, extending through the Gulf Country and Northern Territory-Queensland border region and also covering the Top End. Parts of the Top End and regions surrounding the Gulf of Carpentaria recorded very-much-above-average May rainfall. Parts of South Australia on the southern sides of the Eyre and Fleurieu Peninsulas recorded above- to very-much-above-average rainfall, as did southern Victoria around Port Phillip and West and South Gippsland, and the majority of Tasmania.

Bellenden Ker Top Station, located south of Cairns in Queensland, received 1062.0 mm of rainfall for May, the highest total for the country.

Rainfall was below to very much below average across most of Western Australia, and was in fact that state's fifth-driest May on record. Below-average falls extended through central and southern Australia, covering the south-western half of the Northern Territory and most of Southern Australia where average falls were recorded in the northeast and parts of the south. The western half of New South Wales, adjacent parts of northern and western Victoria, and a small region across the Queensland border also recorded below- to very-much-below average rainfall, as did the coastal strip extending from the New South Wales-Victoria border into southeast Queensland.

Area-average rainfall
(out of 113)
from mean*
Australia 34 17.0 −40%
Queensland 81 31.6 +4% lowest since 1998
New South Wales 34 20.3 −57%
Victoria 46 47.3 −27%
Tasmania 92 176.8 +28%
South Australia 25 8.7 −59%
Western Australia 5 5.8 −78% fifth lowest
Northern Territory 74 10.5 −23%
Murray-Darling Basin 44 24.8 −41%

*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 May 2012
Hottest day 37.4 °C at Mardie (WA) on 13 May
Coldest day −3.1 °C at Thredbo Top Station (NSW) on 25 May
Coldest night −10.0 °C at Charlotte Pass (NSW) on 30 May
Warmest night 28.0 °C at Bedout Island (WA) on 14 May
Wettest day 215.0 mm at Halifax (Macrossan St) (Qld) on 25 May


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 12 noon EST on Friday 1 June 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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