Australia in January 2019

In brief

  • January warmest on record for Australia; warmest or second-warmest in each State and Territory
  • The month saw a series of heatwaves unprecedented in their scale and duration
  • A Special Climate Statement discussing the extraordinary heat has been released
  • Mean temperatures record-warm across large areas, and well above average everywhere except the Kimberley, west coast Western Australia, and northeastern Queensland
  • Nationally, January rainfall below average
  • Rainfall for the month very much below average for southeastern Queensland and much of southeastern Australia; driest January on record for Tasmania
  • Above average rainfall for parts of northern coastal Queensland, with flooding late in the month

Temperatures

January was an exceptionally warm month. It was the warmest January on record for Australia in terms of mean, maximum, and minimum temperatures. The national mean temperature was 2.91 °C above average. Maximum temperatures were 3.37 °C above average and minimum temperatures were 2.45 °C above average.

Both maxima and minima were warmer than average across nearly all of Australia, with near-average or cooler than average temperatures only observed in northeastern Queensland, across west coast and parts of south coast Western Australia, and other smaller areas in the Kimberley and Top End.

In terms of mean temperatures, January was the warmest or second-warmest on record for all States and the Northern Territory. January mean maximum temperatures were highest on record for the southern two thirds of the Northern Territory, adjacent parts of Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia, eastern South Australia, New South Wales and southern Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, and also for patches of inland southern Western Australia. Mean minima were highest on record for the month for a large area of inland northern Australia, and a large area spanning southern Queensland to the eastern half of Victoria.

A prolonged heatwave affected much of the country throughout the month, breaking records for duration and individual daily extremes. Both the scale and longevity of this persistent heat is unprecedented; since early December 2018 extreme heat has lingered and has been impacting different parts of the country ever since. Further information about the heatwaves that have affected the country can be found in the Special Climate Statement Widespread heatwaves during December 2018 and January 2019.

A persistence of stable and sunny conditions over much of the country, and a delayed onset of the Australian monsoon over northern Australia, created ideal conditions for heat build-up. This dome of hot air over the continent has brought extreme heat to various areas as weather systems, particularly troughs, have introduced extremely hot air into different regions, with little penetration of cooler air from the south to disrupt the hot, continental air mass.

Many of the most notable records include sites which observed record-long runs of consecutive hot days:

  • Birdsville (Qld.) had 10 consecutive days over 45 °C
  • Alice Springs Airport (NT) had 16 days in a row above 42 °C
  • Cloncurry (Qld.) had 43 consecutive days over 40 °C - a State record for Queensland
  • Camooweal(Qld.) had 40 consecutive days over 40 °C
  • Walungurru (NT) had 27 consecutive days above 40 °C
  • Bourke Airport (NSW) had 21 consecutive days above 40 °C - a State record for New South Wales

Many sites had their highest January mean daily maximum temperature on record in South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria. Port Augusta reached 49.5 °C on 24 January, a record for the site and the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Australia since January 2013. Some sites in the Northern Territory and Western Australia also observed record-hot days.

Minimum temperatures were also particularly warm across the month, and extraordinarily so late in the month in New South Wales and Victoria. In the 24 hours to 9 am on the 26th temperatures at Wanaaring (Borrona Downs AWS)(NSW) did not drop below 36.6 °C, making it the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in Australia. The previous national record of 35.5 °C was also exceeded on the 18th at Noona (NSW) and Wanaaring (Borrona Downs AWS). The night between the 24th and 25th was also exceptionally warm across most of Victoria. State and Territory records were also set during the month for South Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory.

Tasmania missed most of the extreme heat that affected the mainland but was still consistently warm, leading to a record-warm month. Combined with extremely low rainfall across the State, and bouts of dry lightning, most notably on the 15th, 17th and 31st, Tasmania was subject to multiple very severe bushfires. Many of these fires were in remote or wilderness areas, presenting very challenging conditions for suppression and control, and were ongoing as of the end of the month.


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 110 +3.37 highest (was +2.46 °C in 2013) 110 +2.45 highest (was +1.84 °C in 2006) 110 +2.91 highest (was +1.92 °C in 2013)
Queensland 106 +2.39 5th highest 110 +2.53 highest (was +2.45 °C in 2006) 110 +2.46 highest (was +2.22 °C in 2018 and 2013)
New South Wales 110 +6.15 highest (was +4.11 °C in 1939) 110 +5.56 highest (was +3.83 °C in 2006) 110 +5.86 highest (was +3.79 °C in 1939)
Victoria 110 +4.61 highest (was +3.69 °C in 1981) 110 +3.32 highest (was +3.10 °C in 2001) 110 +3.97 highest (was +3.30 °C in 2001)
Tasmania 110 +3.22 highest (was +2.99 °C in 1961) 108 +1.78 3rd highest (record +1.90 °C in 2016) 110 +2.50 highest (was +2.24 °C in 1961)
South Australia 110 +4.66 highest (was +4.50 °C in 2001) 107 +3.07 4th highest (record +4.40 °C in 2006) 109 +3.86 2nd highest (record +4.06 °C in 2001)
Western Australia 110 +2.33 highest (was +2.21 °C in 2008) = 105 +0.86 equal 5th highest 109 +1.60 2nd highest (record +1.69 °C in 2008)
Northern Territory 110 +3.71 highest (was +2.88 °C in 2013) 110 +2.82 highest (was +1.61 °C in 2013) 110 +3.27 highest (was +2.25 °C in 2013)

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 January was below above average for Australia as a whole.

January rainfall was below or very much below average across the southeastern quarter of Queensland, northeastern New South Wales, Victoria and adjacent southern New South Wales, southern South Australia, Tasmania, most of the southern half of Western Australia, most of the Northern Territory (except the Top End) and adjacent western Queensland.

Onset of the northern Australian monsoon was delayed during the summer of 2018–19. At Darwin monsoon onset occurred on 23 January, close to the latest onset during the past 60 years, which was 25 January in 1973. The delayed onset of the Australian monsoon was the primary cause of the low rainfall over northern Australia. For the northern wet season to date rainfall has been below average over most of northern Australia, excluding Queensland's tropical and central coast, and the northeastern Top End.

Much of central to southern Queensland reported little or no rainfall during January, with large parts of the southeastern quarter of the State receiving their lowest total January rainfall on record.

It was also a particularly dry month through much of southeastern Australia. Rainfall was in the lowest 10% of historical observations for western and southern Victoria, southern agricultural regions of South Australia, and all of Tasmania. For Tasmania as a whole, rainfall was record low for January and several sites, including Hobart and Launceston, had their lowest total January rainfall on record.

The main area to observe above average rainfall for January was along the coast of central and northern Queensland, with other small pockets also wetter than average in central northern Queensland and the Top End, and central eastern New South Wales. Monsoonal systems brought flooding to Queensland's north tropical coast late in the month, including daily rainfall records at a few locations. Regular thunderstorm activity also brought above average rainfall to parts of central and southeastern New South Wales.

Tropical cyclone Penny, and later the remnant low, also produced moderate to locally heavier falls across Cape York Peninsula and along Queensland's tropical and central coast towards the start of the month.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(of 120)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 21 49.2 −38%
Queensland 40 95.0 −25%
New South Wales 26 27.6 −58%
Victoria 12 11.1 −72%
Tasmania 1 15.4 −80% lowest
South Australia = 28 5.2 −79%
Western Australia 35 33.2 −41%
Northern Territory 29 74.1 −38%
Murray-Darling Basin 11 16.2 −71%

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 January 2019
Hottest day 49.5 °C    at Port Augusta Aero (SA) on the 24th
Coldest day 6.7 °C    at Mount Read (Tas.) on the 9th
Coldest night −0.5 °C    at Buttlers Gorge (Tas.) on the 13th
Warmest night 36.6 °C    at Wanaaring (Borrona Downs AWS) (NSW) on the 26th
Wettest day 471.6 mm at Whyanbeel Valley (Qld) on the 27th


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 February 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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