Australia in May 2016

In brief

  • Australia's second-warmest May on record
  • Particularly warm in the east and north
  • Cool in the southwest
  • Australia's wettest May since 1983

Northern and eastern Australia had another warm month in May. Temperature records were broken at various sites around the country. Temperatures were below average in the southwest through the month, and the southeast saw some cool weather in the last week of the month.

Rainfall averaged across the country was the highest for May since 1983. After many months of mostly drier than average conditions, rainfall in May was above average over much of northern Australia, central parts of the country and in southeastern Australia away from the southeast coast, with record-breaking daily rainfall totals in parts of northern and central Australia. All States and Territories recorded above average May rainfall, with Tasmania recording its third-wettest May on record. However, the statewide departures from the May mean monthly rainfall varied substantially from the lowest in Queensland (10% above average) to the highest in the Northern Territory (214% above average).


The national May mean temperature was 1.88 °C warmer than average, making this May the second-warmest behind 1958. The national mean minimum temperature was also the second-warmest for Australia at 2.04 °C above average, whilst the mean daily maximum temperature for Australia was the fifth-warmest on record for May, with an anomaly of +1.72 °C.

Monthly mean temperatures were well above average over almost the entire country, with the exception of southwest Western Australia where some areas were very much cooler than average. Mean temperatures were highest on record for the Top End, through northern and western Queensland, and on parts of the Queensland and New South Wales coasts.

Mean maximum temperatures were above average for almost the whole country, except for the southwest. They were highest on record in the Top End, much of eastern Queensland south of the tropics, and coastal and adjacent inland areas of New South Wales. Maximum temperatures were well above average north of a line stretching from the Kimberley in Western Australia to northern New South Wales, and in pockets around the eastern border of South Australia. The only area of significantly below average maximum temperatures for May was in the South West Land Division of Western Australia.

Mean minimum temperatures were also above average across almost the whole country. They were highest on record in the Gulf of Carpentaria, extending southward into much of western Queensland and in the western half of the Northern Territory. Overnight temperatures were well above average in much of the country, and above average in southeast Queensland, eastern New South Wales and parts of South Australia. Near average overnight temperatures occurred in northeast New South Wales and the southwest of Western Australia, with the South West Land Division recording below-average minima.

The warm weather experienced during March and April continued into May. The first ten days of the month saw nights more than six degrees warmer than average across most of the country. The national mean minimum temperature record for May was broken on the 1st, and again on the 7th. Troughton Island, off the north coast of Western Australia, had a minimum of 29.6 °C on the 2nd, the warmest May minimum temperature on record for any Australian site. Cooler weather affected the southeast in the last week of the month, but temperatures in northern Australia remained well above average to the end of the month.

Areal average temperatures
Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature Mean Temperature
(of 107)
Comment Rank
(of 107)
Comment Rank
(of 107)
Australia 103 +1.72 5th highest 106 +2.04 2nd highest (record +2.24 °C in 1958) 106 +1.88 2nd highest (record +2.11 °C in 1958)
Queensland 105 +2.46 3rd highest (record +2.49 °C in 1958) 107 +2.99 highest (was +2.80 °C in 1989) 107 +2.73 highest (was +2.46 °C in 2007)
New South Wales 96 +1.47 98 +1.54 10th highest 102 +1.51 6th highest
Victoria 96 +1.17 104 +1.96 4th highest (record +2.57 °C in 1988) 104 +1.57 4th highest (record +2.22 °C in 2007)
Tasmania 73 +0.20 97 +1.43 95 +0.82
South Australia 89 +1.57 99 +1.89 9th highest = 97 +1.73 equal 10th highest
Western Australia 93 +1.16 92 +1.06 = 99 +1.11 equal 8th highest
Northern Territory 106 +2.23 2nd highest (record +2.55 °C in 1958) 107 +3.10 highest (was +2.92 °C in 1958) 106 +2.67 2nd highest (record +2.74 °C in 1958)

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 107 (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
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
Map of mean daily temperature Map of mean daily temperature anomalies Map of mean daily temperature deciles


May is the first month of northern Australia's dry season, but in 2016 it was a relatively wet start. Nationally, the area-averaged rainfall was 57% above the May average, making it the wettest May since 1983 and the seventh-wettest May on record. Small pockets of highest on record May rainfall occurred in isolated areas of Northern Australia the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula and in the border region of South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. However, there was an extensive area of well above average rainfall recorded from the Kimberley in Western Australia east to Cape York, and southeast into western New South Wales. Much of Tasmania, and especially the west, also had very much above average rainfall in May.

Unseasonal rainfall occurred in the northwest early in the month as a cloudband of tropical origin extended from the Indian Ocean across central Australia. There was some very heavy rain and thunderstorms from the 6th to the 9th, especially around the Kimberley, Pilbara, southwest Northern Territory, northeast South Australia and southwest Queensland. An upper trough extended a deep, moist tropical air mass over northern Queensland from the 22nd, generating heavy rainfall and thunderstorms over the Gulf Country and Cape York Peninsula, with heavy falls recorded on the north tropical coast of Queensland. Southwest Western Australia experienced rain from the 21st to the 29th, with some moderate to locally heavy falls as cold fronts crossed. Persistent westerly winds over Tasmania for the first three weeks of the month brought very high totals to the western highlands, including many days with moderate to heavy falls, and gave Tasmania its wettest May since 1958.

Area-average rainfall
(of 117)
from mean
Australia 111 44.8 +57% 7th highest; highest since 1983
Queensland = 90 33.4 +10%
New South Wales 89 54.9 +17%
Victoria 98 85.8 +32%
Tasmania 115 276.3 +100% 3rd highest (record 370.9 mm in 1923)
South Australia 108 39.0 +84% 10th highest; highest since 1979
Western Australia 103 43.1 +68%
Northern Territory 112 42.5 +214% 6th highest; highest since 2004
Murray-Darling Basin 96 53.3 +26%

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 117 (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
Map of total rainfall Map of percentage of normal rain Map of rainfall deciles

Australian weather extremes during May 2016
Hottest day 40.3 °C at Derby Aero (WA) on the 3rd
Coldest day −2.5 °C at Thredbo AWS (NSW) on the 27th
Coldest night −9.7 °C at Cooma Airport (NSW) on the 30th
Warmest night 29.6 °C at Troughton Island (WA) on the 2nd
Wettest day 274.0 mm at Hazelmere (Qld) on the 22nd


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 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 June 2016. 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.

The system used for calculating areal averages of rainfall was changed in August 2009; the main effect was that current and historical values for Tasmania were increased. Since August 2012, ACORN-SAT has been used for calculating areal averages of temperature; the major change from earlier datasets is that the ACORN-SAT dataset commences in 1910, and hence rankings are calculated using a larger set of years.

Further information

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