Australia in March 2020

In brief

  • Both mean maximum and mean minimum temperatures above average for Australia as a whole
  • Mean maximum temperature above to very much above average for much of the northern tropics and the northern half of Western Australia; cooler than average for much of the southeast
  • Mean minimum temperatures above to very much above average for most of Western Australia except the Kimberley, western South Australia and the southwest of the Northern Territory, much of the northern tropics, and an area of southwest Queensland
  • March rainfall slightly below average for the country as a whole
  • Rainfall above average along a band from the inland Kimberley, through the southern Northern Territory and southwest Queensland, much of New South Wales and northern Victoria, and Tasmania
  • Rainfall below average for much of the northern tropics and parts of eastern Queensland, an area extending from the western Kimberley and eastern Pilbara into the northern interior of Western Australia, and along the coast of southeast South Australia and western Victoria

Temperatures

It was the equal-twenty-first-warmest March on record for Australia as a whole, at 0.67 °C warmer than average. It was also warmer than average for Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, although they all placed outside the top ten.

Nationally, the mean maximum temperature was above average at +0.57 °C while the mean minimum temperatures was +0.76 °C above average. The mean minimum temperature was the tenth-warmest on record for March for Western Australia. No other State nor the Northern Territory placed amongst the ten warmest or coolest on record for March for either mean maximum or mean minimum temperatures.

Maximum temperatures for March were above or very much above average across large areas of Australia's northern tropics, extending across most of the northern half of Western Australia and into far northwestern South Australia and the far southwest of the Northern Territory.

The mean maximum temperature for the month was below average for large areas of southeastern Australia, including nearly all of New South Wales, some parts of eastern South Australia and a large area of the Eyre Peninsula, the eastern half of Victoria, most of Tasmania, and also extended into areas of southern Queensland. Maxima for the month were very much below average (lowest 10% of historical observations) for an area of New South Wales extending inland from the Mid North Coast to the Central West Slopes and Plains.

The mean minimum temperature for the month was above or very much above average for the northern tropics in Queensland and the Northern Territory, most of Western Australia except the Kimberley away from the coast, the western half of South Australia and the far southwest of the Northern Territory, and an area of southwest Queensland, extending into far northwestern New South Wales.

Mean minimum temperatures for the month were only below average for an area in the inland Kimberley, extending just over the border into the Northern Territory.

Both days and nights were very warm for large parts of Western Australia during March, including a number of sites in the northwest which observed long runs of days of 40 °C or above from mid-March.

Some sites in the western Top End had their highest March temperature on record, while Rabbit Flat, in the Tanami District, had its coldest March day (lowest maximum temperature) on record, associated with heavy rain early in March.

In Queensland several sites, mostly in the southeast, observed a record warm night for March early in the month, with a few sites observing a record cool day shortly after.

In New South Wales, a number of sites around the Sydney basin observed their coolest March day (lowest maximum temperature) on record in the middle of the month.

Several sites in South Australia had their coolest March day on record, with a few scattered across the State during early March, or across parts of Eyre Peninsula and Mid North on the 23rd and 24th.


Coral bleaching

Accumulation of heat in waters east of Queensland during February and into March has led to a mass coral bleaching event, with very widespread bleaching detected across the Great Barrier Reef.


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 75 +0.57 95 +0.78 = 91 +0.67
Queensland 57 +0.22 89 +0.84 = 77 +0.53
New South Wales = 18 −1.19 76 +0.48 48 −0.35
Victoria 46 −0.36 = 71 +0.16 = 65 −0.09
Tasmania = 31 −1.04 = 47 −0.63 36 −0.83
South Australia = 56 +0.29 79 +0.59 70 +0.44
Western Australia 97 +1.34 102 +1.12 10th highest 100 +1.23
Northern Territory 81 +1.09 74 +0.55 84 +0.82

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

March rainfall was 15% below average for Australia as a whole. No State or Territory ranked amongst the ten wettest or driest on record for March.

Rainfall for the month was above average for much of the inland Kimberley; through the central and southeastern Northern Territory; across Queensland's west, Channel Country, and Warrego regions; much of New South Wales except parts of the northeast and southeast; most of northern and parts of central Victoria; and most of Tasmania. This arc of above average rainfall was largely associated with the passage of ex-tropical cyclone Esther early during the month.

Above average rainfall in the inland Kimberley largely resulted from heavy falls associated with ex-tropical cyclone Esther during the first days of the month, including some daily rainfall records for March. Several sites in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales also set records for their highest March daily rainfall on record early in the month associated with Esther. Some sites in Tasmania went on to reach their highest total March rainfall on record. The heavy rainfall resulted in areas of flash flooding and some building damage in the eastern States. In western Queensland transport links were cut for a number of weeks.

Rainfall was also above average for the southwest of South Australia and parts of the Nullarbor Plain, and for some pockets of far southwest and northwest Western Australia, although rainfall totals were generally modest.

Rainfall was below average for much of the northern tropics and parts of eastern Queensland, and in Western Australia in an area extending from the western Kimberley and eastern Pilbara into the north of the Interior District. Rainfall was also below average along the coast of southeast South Australia and western Victoria, and in pockets of Victoria's eastern coast.

Rainfall during March 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 long-term return to past average rainfall conditions is unlikely.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(of 121)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 48 52.0 −15%
Queensland 53 74.3 −18%
New South Wales 98 71.3 +46%
Victoria 76 41.8 +2%
Tasmania 108 130.5 +45%
South Australia 78 16.5 −12%
Western Australia 54 33.4 −23%
Northern Territory 53 70.5 −28%
Murray-Darling Basin 95 57.9 +50%

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 March 2020
Hottest day 45.1 °C    at Onslow Airport (WA) on the 1st
Coldest day 3.7 °C    at Mount Baw Baw (Vic.) on the 14th
Coldest night −6.0 °C    at Perisher Valley AWS (NSW) on the 15th
Warmest night 31.9 °C    at Telfer Aero (WA) on the 16th
Wettest day 339.0 mm at Allingham Forrest Drive (Qld) 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 1 pm EST on Wednesday 1 April 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.


Further information

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