Australia in February 2020

In brief

  • Tenth-warmest February on record for Australia
  • Mean maximum temperature above to very much above average for much of northern Australia; cooler than average for much of the southeast
  • Mean minimum temperatures above to very much above average for most of Australia except South Australia, parts of adjoining States, and Tasmania; cooler than average for parts of South Australia
  • February rainfall slightly above average for the country as a whole
  • Rainfall above average for much of the west of Western Australia, central and southeastern South Australia, Victoria, central to eastern New South Wales, southeastern Queensland, and the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast
  • Rainfall below average for the coastal Kimberley in Western Australia, parts of the Top End in the Northern Territory, and some areas through the tropical coasts and far west of Queensland and northwestern New South Wales

Temperatures

It was the tenth-warmest February on record for Australia as a whole, at 0.97 °C warmer than average. It was the sixth-warmest February on record for the Northern Territory. It was also warmer than average for Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, though they placed outside the top ten.

Nationally, the mean maximum temperature was above average at +0.73 °C while the mean minimum temperatures was the fifth-warmest on record for February at +1.21 °C. Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory observed February mean minimum temperatures amongst the ten highest on record for the month.

Maximum temperatures for February were above average across large areas of eastern coastal and far western Queensland and an area of the Central West District; across the north, east, and southwest of the Northern Territory; the coastal Kimberley, northeast Pilbara, much of the Interior, and pockets of the South West Land Division in Western Australia. February mean maximum temperatures were in the highest 10% of historical observations (decile 10) for much of the Top End and along the coast of Queensland from Lockhart River on the Cape York Peninsula to Rockhampton.

The mean maximum temperature for the month was below average for large areas of southeastern Australia, extending through most of South Australia except the far north and west; most of inland New South Wales except the far south and northwest, extending into southeastern Queensland; Victoria away from the northern border; and eastern and southern Tasmania.

The mean minimum temperature for the month was above average for much of the mainland, and in the highest 10% of historical observations (decile 10) for the east coast and adjacent ranges, across Cape York Peninsula, the northern two thirds of the Northern Territory, and large parts of Western Australia in the Kimberley, eastern Pilbara, northern Interior, and the greater southwest of the State. The mean minimum temperature for the month was close to average for most of South Australia, extending into far southeastern Western Australia, the far southeast of the Northern Territory, the western half of New South Wales, and northwestern Victoria. Minimum temperatures for February were cooler than average for some pockets of South Australia.

February got off to a warm start for parts of the southeast. A large number of stations observed their warmest February night on the 1st or 2nd in New South Wales, as did some in Victoria and Tasmania. A number of stations in New South Wales also observed their warmest February day on record on the 1st too. A number of New South Wales stations went on to observe their highest February monthly mean minimum temperature on record.

A cool change followed the warm start, bringing record cool days for February at a couple of stations in Tasmania on the 3rd and record cool nights at a few stations in Tasmania and New South Wales on the 4th.

A few stations in Tasmania also observed record cool days for February on the 19th.

A few stations in Western Australia observed a record warm day or record warm night during the month, while the end of the month also brought some record-warm nights in the Northern Territory.


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 89 +0.73 107 +1.21 5th highest; highest since 2007 102 +0.97 10th highest
Queensland 87 +1.09 109 +1.60 3rd highest (record +1.88 °C in 2006) 101 +1.35
New South Wales 34 −0.74 97 +1.38 67 +0.32
Victoria 32 −1.15 90 +1.27 64 +0.06
Tasmania 22 −1.30 72 −0.02 46 −0.65
South Australia 48 −0.29 51 −0.28 = 49 −0.28
Western Australia 87 +1.07 108 +1.29 4th highest (record +1.95 °C in 2007) 99 +1.18
Northern Territory 96 +1.74 110 +1.64 2nd highest (record +1.87 °C in 1983) 106 +1.69 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

February rainfall was 11% above average for Australia as a whole. No State or Territory ranked amongst the ten wettest or driest Februarys on record, though area-averaged rainfall was notably above average for New South Wales (+104%) and Victoria (+65%).

Rainfall for the month was above average for much of the eastern mainland, including central to eastern New South Wales; central to southeastern Queensland, extending to parts of the Capricornia coast and eastern Warrego; western, southern, and eastern Victoria; and large areas of South Australia extending from south of Alice Springs in Central Australia, through central and southeastern South Australia.

Rainfall was also above average along the track of tropical cyclone Esther, in an area extending westward from the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast through northeastern and central northern parts of the Northern Territory, into pockets of the central Kimberley in Western Australia, and was above average over much of the western half of Western Australia except for the northwestern Gascoyne and western Pilbara where rainfall was mostly near average.

Rainfall was below average across large areas of the western and coastal northern Kimberley, extending into parts of the coastal Top End in the Northern Territory; for a large area of southeastern Western Australia and adjacent western South Australia; an area spanning northwestern New South Wales, southwestern Queensland, and adjacent far northeastern South Australia; as well as for smaller pockets elsewhere including in around Northwest Cape in West Australia, and across areas of Queensland's northern tropics.

Widespread heavy rainfall was observed across large parts of northern Australia during the first 8 days of February, including parts of inland southern Queensland which drain into the Murray-Darling Basin and Lake Eyre / Kati Thanda.

Moderate to heavy rainfall continued along the east coast of Australia during the first half of February, with widespread showers and rain stretching inland to the Great Dividing Range. Rainfall was particularly heavy around Sydney through to the Blue Mountains, along the Illawarra coast, and in northeast New South Wales and southeast Queensland. Significant impacts have been reported, as single and multiday rainfall totals were broken. Sydney saw 392 mm over four days from the 7th to the 10th, which is more rain than the city experienced during the entire second half of 2019 and the heaviest four-day fall since 1990. A very large number of stations in New South Wales observed their highest daily rainfall total for February between 7th and 10th, as did some in southeast Queensland between the 9th and 13th. Both riverine and flash flooding resulted in some areas. Both riverine and flash flooding resulted in parts of the State. A large number of stations in New South Wales and some in Queensland set records for their wettest February overall.

In the west, a tropical low tracked west across the Kimberley district during the first week of February, before developing into tropical cyclone Damien while offshore north of Port Hedland on the afternoon on the 6th. Damien moved southwestward and intensified to severe cyclone strength (category 3) before turning south and making landfall near Dampier in the afternoon on the 8th, then weakening to a tropical low while moving through inland Pilbara during the next day.

Daily rainfall records were also set during the month at a few stations in South Australia on the 1st, and in Tasmania on the 19th, and in southeast Queensland during the last week of the month.

Rainfall during the month further helped in the management of bushfires across eastern Australia, with all fires having been declared contained in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania by the end of February. However, not all fires are out with some fires still burning within containment lines in the south of New South Wales, the ACT, and eastern Victoria.

Despite bringing its own concerns for areas which experienced flooding and other disruptions, rainfall during February has contributed to a reduction of rainfall deficiencies across parts of eastern Australia. However, 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.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(of 121)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 73 84.7 +11%
Queensland =65 125.9 +9%
New South Wales 110 103.3 +104%
Victoria 97 52.8 +65%
Tasmania 66 69.1 +5%
South Australia 80 21.4 +10%
Western Australia 66 55.3 −8%
Northern Territory 77 128.5 +7%
Murray-Darling Basin 108 80.0 +98%

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 February 2020
Hottest day 46.8 °C    at Richmond RAAF (NSW) on the 1st
Coldest day 1.4 °C    at kunanyi (Mount Wellington Pinnacle) (Tas.) on the 3rd
Coldest night −4.3 °C    at Thredbo AWS and Perisher Valley AWS (NSW) on the 4th
Warmest night 34.7 °C    at Condobolin Ag Research Stn and Condobolin Airport AWS (NSW) on the 1st
Wettest day 418.6 mm at Wattamolla (Griffiths) (NSW) on the 10th


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.

Updated on 18 March 2020: text corrected to show that "...February rainfall was 11% above average for Australia as a whole..." (earlier version incorrectly stated it was below average).

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 10 am EST on Monday 2 March 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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