Australia in January 2020

In brief

  • Third-warmest January on record for Australia; amongst the ten warmest for Queensland, New South Wales, and the Northern Territory
  • Mean maximum temperature above to very much above average for eastern Australia, most of the Northern Territory, and parts of coastal northwest and southeast Western Australia
  • Mean minimum temperatures were above to very much above average for northern Australia, most of New South Wales, Tasmania, and southeast Western Australia
  • January rainfall was slightly above average for the country as a whole
  • Rainfall was above average for much of Western Australia away from the northeast and west coast, western and central South Australia, western and central Queensland, and much of Victoria away from the west and northeast
  • Rainfall was below average for parts of west coast Western Australia, large parts of New South Wales, and pockets of far northern Australia

Temperatures

It was the third-warmest January on record for Australia as a whole, at 1.45 °C above average. It was the second-warmest January on record for Queensland, third-warmest for New South Wales, and sixth-warmest for the Northern Territory. It was also warmer than average for all other States, though they placed outside the top ten.

Nationally, the mean maximum and mean minimum temperatures were the ninth- and third-warmest on record for January respectively. Both Queensland and New South Wales observed January mean maximum and mean minimum temperatures amongst the ten highest on record for the month, with the Northern Territory falling just outside the top ten for monthly mean maximum temperature, but recording their second-warmest January mean minimum temperature on record.

Maximum temperatures for January were above average across nearly all of eastern Australia, including Tasmania; for northeastern South Australia; for most of the Northern Territory; and for parts of Western Australia in the far northeast of the Kimberley, the northwest coast, and the southeast coast. January mean maximum temperatures were in the highest 10% of historical observations (decile 10) for most of New South Wales away from the west and the south, for southern Queensland, and for parts of northern Queensland and the eastern to central Top End in the Northern Territory. The mean maximum temperature for the month was below average for a large area of the northern interior of Western Australia, associated with above average rainfall.

The mean minimum temperature for the month was above average for most of the north and southeast of Western Australia, across the Northern Territory and Queensland, for most of New South Wales except the southwest and Riverina, for far eastern Victoria, the northern border regions of South Australia, and for Tasmania. January mean minima were warmest on record for some areas around the Gulf of Carpentaria, inland northern Queensland, and in a region spanning inland southeastern Queensland to northeast New South Wales. Minimum temperatures for January were cooler than average for some small areas of central inland and far southwestern Western Australia.

Following on from a very warm period in the last days of 2019, the first days of 2020 saw northerly winds bring some very high temperatures across parts of southeastern Australia. A very large number of stations in New South Wales observed their warmest January day on record on the 4th or 5th. Meanwhile, behind the cold front and trough which drove those northerlies, a band of well below average temperatures saw multiple stations in South Australia and across Victoria set records for their coolest January day on record, and some stations in Western Australia observe record low daily minimum temperatures on the 4th and 5th.

Fires in eastern Australia, which had seen a significant increase in activity over the New Year's period, produced widespread areas of thick smoke with poor air quality affecting large areas for a number of days during the month.

A very hot airmass brought another period of very high temperatures across southern Australia from the 27th to the end of the month. Temperatures were close to and even exceeding 40 °C over wide regions, including coastal areas at times. Many records were set in Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, mostly on the 31st.

A few daily high maximum and minimum temperature records were also set in the Northern Territory and Queensland around the middle of the month. Some stations also observed high January monthly mean maximum and minimum temperature records in New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and Queensland.


Areal average temperatures
Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature Mean Temperature
Rank
(of 111)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 111)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 111)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment
Australia 103 +1.45 9th highest 109 +1.45 3rd highest (record +2.45 °C in 2019) 109 +1.45 3rd highest (record +2.90 °C in 2019)
Queensland 105 +2.27 7th highest 110 +2.48 2nd highest (record +2.53 °C in 2019) 110 +2.38 2nd highest (record +2.46 °C in 2019)
New South Wales 105 +3.60 7th highest 106 +3.12 6th highest 107 +3.36 5th highest
Victoria 84 +1.16 78 +0.73 76 +0.95
Tasmania 87 +1.05 94 +0.93 89 +0.99
South Australia 86 +1.16 73 +0.48 = 81 +0.82
Western Australia 71 +0.41 87 +0.40 = 81 +0.41
Northern Territory 99 +1.32 110 +1.94 2nd highest (record +2.82 °C in 2019) 106 +1.63 6th highest

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 111 (highest). A rank marked with ’=‘ indicates the value is tied for that rank. Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961–1990) average.


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
Mean
daily
temperatures
Map of mean daily temperature Map of mean daily temperature anomalies Map of mean daily temperature deciles

Rainfall

January rainfall was 12% above average for Australia as a whole. No State or Territory ranked amongst the ten wettest or driest Januarys on record, though area-averaged rainfall was notably above average for Western Australia (+59%) and below average for New South Wales (−36%).

Rainfall for the month was above average for much of Western Australia, extending from he coast between the western Kimberley and eastern Pilbara, through inland Western Australia, to the southeast coast and across much of western to central South Australia. Very much above to highest on record rainfall in parts of Western Australia resulted from heavy falls associated with tropical systems, including tropical cyclones Blake and Claudia.

Rainfall was also above average for much of inland northern Queensland to the east of the Northern Territory, parts of northeast New South Wales, and a large area of Victoria away from the western districts, northeast, and far east of Gippsland.

Rainfall was below to very much below average across large areas of New South Wales, mostly in the southeast, central north, and across western districts and adjacent parts of eastern South Australia. Rainfall was also below to very much below average for large parts of the South West Land Division in Western Australia, and part of the western Pilbara coast; and for pockets of the northern tropics in the eastern Top End and Queensland's Cape York Peninsula.

While useful rainfall fell during the month across parts of eastern Australia, and helped to reduce the number and severity of uncontrolled bushfires, the rainfall required for recovery from long-term rainfall deficiencies is substantial. In many areas several months of above-average rainfall would be required to have a lasting effect. In some locations it is possible that long-term rainfall deficiencies will never be completely removed, or that systems that depend on that rainfall will never fully recover. The State of the Climate documents a continuing decrease in rainfall over large parts of southern Australia, which means that a return to past average rainfall conditions is unlikely.

The tropical low which would become tropical cyclone Claudia tracked across the northern Top End during the second week of January, before reaching cyclone strength while well offshore of Western Australia. The system delivered heavy rainfall over the western Top End, including daily rainfall records for January at Wagait Beach and Dum In Mirrie; the Dum In Mirrie total of 562.0 mm was the highest daily rainfall ever recorded in the Northern Territory.

Tropical cyclone Blake, which made landfall twice on the northwest coast of Western Australia during the first week of January, brought heavy rainfall to parts of the Pilbara and southwestern Kimberley. A few sites in Western Australia set daily rainfall records for January as a result of Blake, in a few cases contributing to stations observing their wettest January on record.

Tropical moisture was also fed into southeastern Australia at times during the second half of the month, leading to periods of high humidity and fuelling some occurrences of severe thunderstorms, including giant hail.

Storms affected southeastern Australia between the 15th and 20th, with heavy rain leading to flash flooding in some locations, including some daily rainfall records in New South Wales and Queensland on or around the 18th. Storms towards the end of the period were particularly intense, and included giant hail up to 6 cm in diameter across parts of the southern suburbs of Canberra and parts of southeastern Melbourne. Extensive damage was reported to buildings and motor vehicles in both cities.

Tropical moisture again contributed to heavy rainfall, though generally without much property damage, in the following week when a large number of stations in Victoria observed their highest January daily rainfall on record on the 21st or the 23rd. For some stations, it was the wettest January on record.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(of 121)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 84 89.1 +12%
Queensland 78 134.1 +6%
New South Wales 50 42.0 −36%
Victoria 89 47.4 +19%
Tasmania 51 70.4 −7%
South Australia 80 18.3 −25%
Western Australia 104 90.0 +59%
Northern Territory 65 118.8 −1%
Murray-Darling Basin 59 38.8 −30%

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 121 (highest). A rank marked with ’=‘ indicates the value is tied for that rank. Departure from mean is relative to the long-term (1961–1990) average.


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


Australian weather extremes during January 2020
Hottest day 48.9 °C    at Penrith Lakes AWS (NSW) on the 4th
Coldest day 4.5 °C    at kunanyi (Mount Wellington Pinnacle) (Tas.) on the 17th
Coldest night −1.6 °C    at Butlers Gorge (Tas.) on the 6th
Warmest night 34.5 °C    at Wanaaring (Borrona Downs AWS) (NSW) on the 10th
Wettest day 562.0 mm at Dum In Mirrie Airstrip (NT) on the 11th


Notes

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. Later information, including data that has had greater opportunity for quality control, will be presented in the Monthly Weather Review, usually published in the fourth week of the following month.

Climate Summaries are usually published on the first working day of each month.

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 8 am EST on Monday 3 February 2020. 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. Temperature area averages are derived from the ACORN-SAT version 2 dataset. Rainfall area averages, along with rainfall and temperature maps, are derived from the AWAP dataset.


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