Australia in February 2019

In brief

  • Fourth-warmest February on record for Australia
  • Both mean maximum and minimum temperature above average for much of the country, but below average in western Queensland
  • Rainfall for the month below to very much below average for much of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia, southern Queensland, far western and northeastern to central coast New South Wales
  • Rainfall very much above average in northern Queensland from the inland northwest to central coast, and for parts of western Cape York Peninsula
  • Active monsoon trough and slow-moving tropical low produced extremely heavy rainfall and flooding in northern Queensland

Temperatures

The maximum, minimum and mean temperature for February for Australia nationally were all above average. The national mean temperature was fourth-warmest on record, at 1.38 °C above average. Maximum temperatures were 2.05 °C above average and minimum temperatures were 0.71 °C above average.

It was particularly warm in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, with the mean monthly temperature both fourth-warmest on record for February. A number of stations in the Northern Territory observed their warmest mean maximum or mean minimum temperatures on record for February as a whole.

Maximum temperatures were above to very much above average over most of Western Australia except along most of the coastal margin from Broome to the South Coast District; across nearly the entire Northern Territory; most of South Australia except for the southeast and parts of the central south; northern, western, and coastal New South Wales; most of Victoria except the west and northeast; northeastern Tasmania; along the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, and across southern Queensland and the Central Highlands and Coalfields and Central Coast districts.

A few locations in northern Queensland observed their warmest February day on record on the 21st, as did a few in northern Western Australia during the last week of the month.

Mean maximum temperature for the month were near average for most of Tasmania, western and northeastern Victoria, southern New South Wales except along the coast, and southeastern and parts of central southern South Australia. Days were also above average across much of Queensland in the west and north. Well above average rainfall and extended flooding led to a cooler than average mean maximum temperature across a large area of Queensland in the Northwest and Gulf Country districts.

The mean minimum temperature for the month was warmer than average for much of Western Australia except along the west coast and southeast of the State; for most of the Northern Territory except the southeastern quarter; across the Cape York Peninsula and for the a large part of Queensland south of a line between the Central Coast and the far southwest; and across the north of New South Wales.

Cooler than average mean minimum temperatures where observed in a large area of western Queensland and adjacent regions across the border of the Northern Territory; for areas of South Australia in the Riverland District, west of Ceduna on the coast, and near Oodnadatta; and in a pocket on the west coast of Western Australia between about Shark Bay and Geraldton. Several stations in South Australia observed a record low minimum temperature for February on the 14th.

Bushfires

Widespread warm and dry conditions, on top of well below average rainfall over multiple months (see Drought Statement), contributed to the ignition or continuation of a number of significant fires during the month.

In New South Wales there were two significant fires in the northeast of the State; at Tingha where 13 homes was burnt, and at Tabulam, west of Casino. There was a fire during the second half of February in South West Western Australia, in the shires of Donnybrook-Balingup and Nannup. In Tasmania, fires which had been burning since late December or mid-January remained alight, but contained, in inaccessible terrain, as did fires which had started in early or mid-January in Gippsland in Victoria. Additional fires in the vicinity of Melbourne's largest water storage, Thomson Dam, near Mount Baw Baw, burned large areas from late January, including a fire near Walhalla which started in late February.

Smoke from the fires, and dust raised from the parched interior of Australia, saw periods of reduced air quality over eastern Australia. Southern Tasmania experienced poor air quality from mid-January to early February, including at locations well removed from the actual fires, while smoke from northwestern Tasmania also reached Victoria in the first week of February. Of several dust storms during the month, the most notable was on the 12th, when dust stretched around 1500 km from southwestern Queensland into southeastern Australia, affecting northern Victoria, Canberra, and crossing New South Wales before extending well offshore from the central coast as the associated trough and frontal system passed out to sea.


Areal average temperatures
Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature Mean Temperature
Rank
(of 110)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 110)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 110)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment
Australia 106 +2.05 5th highest 98 +0.71 107 +1.38 4th highest (record +2.00 °C in 1983)
Queensland 79 +0.61 83 +0.46 = 83 +0.54
New South Wales 94 +1.77 87 +1.13 91 +1.45
Victoria 80 +0.72 72 +0.45 = 77 +0.59
Tasmania = 52 −0.48 = 77 +0.30 = 67 −0.08
South Australia 97 +1.73 51 −0.22 79 +0.76
Western Australia 108 +3.08 3rd highest (record +3.61 °C in 2007) 103 +1.03 8th highest 107 +2.05 4th highest (record +2.78 °C in 2007)
Northern Territory 107 +2.77 4th highest (record +3.13 °C in 1986 and 1965) = 101 +0.96 equal 9th highest 107 +1.87 4th highest (record +2.47 °C in 1983)

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 110 (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

Rainfall for February was below above average for Australia as a whole, despite very much above average rainfall in large parts of Queensland, which resulted in flooding.

February rainfall was below or very much below average across the southeastern quarter of Queensland and inland south of the State; the northeastern third of New South Wales and around the northern and western borders of the State; most of South Australia away from the southeast; nearly all of the Northern Territory; and most of Western Australia except areas of the inland west. Rainfall was near-average for much of southeastern Australia.

February rainfall was the lowest on record for a number of stations in the Northern Territory and southern Queensland, and some in Western Australia and New South Wales.

Following a delayed onset to the monsoon, typical monsoon weather has remained largely absent across northern Australia outside of Queensland. For the northern wet season to date rainfall has been below average over most of northern Australia, excluding across Queensland between the inland northwest and the central coast, parts of Queensland's tropical coast, and the northeastern Top End.

February rainfall was above average for large parts of Queensland, on the west of Cape York Peninsula, and across northern Queensland from the inland northwest to the east coast around Townsville in the Herbert and Lower Burdekin District, and extending into the Central West District. Total rainfall for the month was highest on record for a large area of northwestern Queensland.

Tropical cyclone Oma approached the southeast Queensland coast in the last week of February, but did not make landfall. King tides exacerbated by increasing east-northeast swell and wave action caused coastal erosion and inundation of low-lying areas in coastal southeast Queensland, and contributed to damaging surf which produced coastal erosion in New South Wales.

Flooding

An active monsoon trough, and a slow-moving low pressure system produced extremely heavy rainfall in tropical Queensland from late January into early February, causing flooding on Queensland's tropical coast between Daintree and Mackay, and parts of the western Peninsula and Gulf coast (see Special Climate Statement An extended period of heavy rainfall and flooding in tropical Queensland). As well as sites which set daily rainfall records, many sites across tropical Queensland set records for high multi-day rainfall accumulations, or for the duration of consecutive days of heavy rain, including records for any month of the year. There were a number of locations which observed their wettest February on record.

Flooding was extensive and long-lived in the Gulf Country, with floodwaters in the Flinders River spilling into neighbouring catchments to spread across an area some 70 km wide and an estimated 15 000 km2 or more in total area. Initial reports of flood damage in Townsville alone exceed $600 million, and there have been health effects reported associated with mud and flood water in addition to property damage. In rural northern Queensland, livestock losses have been extensive, and have been estimated at $1 billion in the cattle industry.

While the heaviest rain was over east coast catchments, draining into the Coral Sea, and the northwest of Queensland, draining into the Gulf of Carpentaria, there was also flooding in rivers which drain inland, including the Diamantina. Flood waters have reached Goyder Lagoon, south of Birdsville, in northeastern South Australia, and some of these flood waters will make their way to Lake Eyre / Kati Thanda over the coming weeks.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(of 120)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 28 48.9 −36%
Queensland 81 139.7 +21%
New South Wales 17 20.3 −60%
Victoria 45 22.7 −29%
Tasmania 75 77.7 +18%
South Australia 9 1.5 −92% 9th lowest
Western Australia 11 18.8 −69%
Northern Territory 12 43.0 −64%
Murray-Darling Basin 11 13.1 −68%

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 120 (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 2019
Hottest day 47.6 °C    at Learmonth Airport (WA) on the 25th
Coldest day 3.5 °C    at Mount Baw Baw (Vic.) on the 13th and at Mount Read (Tas.) on the 12th
Coldest night −3.0 °C    at Mount Hotham (Vic.) on the 13th
Warmest night 34.2 °C    at Wittenoom (WA) on the 17th
Wettest day 419.0 mm at Ingham Composite (Qld) on the 3rd *

*there were reports of higher totals at non-standard gauges outside of the Bureau's primary network


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 Friday 1 March 2019. 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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