Australia in March 2019

In brief

  • Warmest March on record for Australia
  • Both mean maximum and minimum temperature above average for nearly all of the country, but days near average in northern Queensland associated with severe tropical cyclone Trevor, and along parts of the south coast following a cold end to the month
  • Warmest March on record for Western Australia and the Northern Territory
  • Amongst the six warmest Marches on record for New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia
  • Rainfall for the month was below to very much below average in a wide band from the Kimberley and Top End down to the top of the Great Australian Bight, across southern South Australia and Victoria, in northern and eastern Tasmania, and pockets along the west coast of Western Australia
  • Two severe tropical cyclones contributed to above to very much above average rainfall in far northern Queensland, the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast, western to central Queensland and parts of the south and southeast of the State, the east of the Northern Territory, northeast South Australia, and part of the Pilbara coast
  • A wet end to the month brought totals to above average for eastern New South Wales, far eastern Victoria, and southeast Queensland

Temperatures

March was the warmest on record for Australia as a whole. The national mean temperature was warmest on record, at 2.13 °C above average. The mean maximum and minimum temperature for the month were both second-warmest on record, at 2.35 °C and 1.90 °C above average respectively.

It was particularly warm in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, where the mean monthly temperature was warmest on record for March. The month was the equal-fourth warmest on record for March for South Australia, fifth warmest for March for Queensland, and sixth warmest for March for New South Wales.

A number of stations in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, and some in the Northern Territory observed their warmest mean maximum or mean minimum temperatures on record for March as a whole. Long runs of warm days were common across northern Australia. Rabbit Flat, in the northwest of the Alice Springs District in the Northern Territory, reached at least 39 °C on each day from 1 December 2018 to 25 March 2019, running for 115 consecutive days and exceeding the previous record of 106 days at Marble Bar in Western Australia (9 November 1921 to 22 February 1922).

Records for individual hot days were also set at times, including in South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria at the start of the month, and across northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland between the 9th and the 12th. New State March high temperature records were set at Dover (Tas) with 40.1 °C on the 2nd, Roebourne (WA) with 48.1 °C on the 10th, and Yulara (NT) with 44.8 °C on the 11th.

Maximum temperatures were above to very much above average over most of Australia. Thick cloud cover and rain associated with severe tropical cyclone Trevor brought near-average daytime temperatures for most of northern and western Queensland. Following what had been a much warmer than average month until then, a cold end to the month brought mean monthly maximum temperatures down to near-average across parts of the southern coast of Western Australia and South Australia, as well as in a region spanning the Alpine region and central New South Wales. Warmest on record mean maximum temperature for the month was observed in a large area spanning the southwest of the Northern Territory and adjacent Western Australia, as well as a small area on the southeast coast of Queensland.

The mean minimum temperature for the month was warmer than average for nearly all of Australia except for some areas in western Queensland, around the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas in South Australia, far southeastern South Australia and southwestern Victoria, and small pockets in the western Kimberley and southwest of Western Australia. The mean minimum temperature was the warmest on record for March in a large area of Western Australia focused on the Gascoyne and Interior districts, extending into the southwest of the Northern Territory, and also for smaller areas in the inland northwest of the Northern Territory and in Queensland inland of the ranges between the Darling Downs and Central Highlands.

A cold outbreak, associated with the passage of a vigorous trough and cold front across southern Australia, brought a cool end to the month, particularly in southeastern Australia, with thundery showers, light to moderate rainfall, small hail, and scattered snow about the higher peaks.

Bushfires

With little rain during the month over active fires, most of the large fires which had been burning since earlier in the season (see February summary) continued to burn within containment lines. Lightning over the ranges to the east of Melbourne on the last day of February and first day of March, and again on the 4th of March, sparked multiple new fires, several of which became very large, including in Bunyip State Park southeast of Melbourne, at Yinnar South in Latrobe Valley in South Gippsland, and in Alpine National Park at Licola, northwest of Dargo, and near Omeo.


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 109 +2.35 2nd highest (record +2.53 °C in 1986) 109 +1.90 2nd highest (record +2.11 °C in 2016) 110 +2.13 highest (was +1.87 °C in 2016)
Queensland 98 +1.62 108 +2.03 3rd highest (record +2.30 °C in 2016) 106 +1.83 5th highest
New South Wales 98 +1.87 107 +1.91 4th highest (record +2.59 °C in 2017) 105 +1.89 6th highest
Victoria 96 +1.20 96 +1.26 95 +1.23
Tasmania 91 +0.85 89 +0.42 95 +0.64
South Australia 104 +2.21 7th highest 96 +1.34 = 106 +1.78 equal 4th highest (record +2.51 °C in 1986)
Western Australia 109 +2.65 2nd highest (record +2.70 °C in 1980) 110 +2.09 highest (was +1.72 °C in 2016) 110 +2.37 highest (was +2.05 °C in 1980)
Northern Territory 110 +3.40 highest (was +3.09 °C in 1986) 109 +1.97 2nd highest (record +2.02 °C in 2016) 110 +2.69 highest (was +2.22 °C in 1992)

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 March was above average for large parts of eastern Australia and some parts of the west following the passage of two severe tropical cyclones during the month, Trevor and Veronica, and a vigorous trough and cold front which interacted with the remnants of Trevor at the end of the month.

Rainfall was above to very much above average from the east of the Northern Territory, from western to central Queensland, extending into the southern and southeastern parts of the State and adjacent parts of northeastern South Australia. Rainfall was also above average for the far north of Queensland, the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast, areas of eastern New South Wales and adjacent northeastern Victoria, much of the Pilbara in Western Australia, and areas of the Goldfields and southwest of Western Australia.

Unfortunately, the rain needed to reduce significant rainfall deficiencies in drought affected areas is substantial and will require above average rainfall over a prolonged period to completely remove deficits at longer timescales.

Rainfall for the month was below to very much below average for much of Victoria, southern and western South Australia, along the eastern border of Western Australia and the northern Kimberley, the west and north of the Northern Territory, and pockets along the west coast of Western Australia, and the northern and eastern coast of Tasmania.

Tropical cyclones

Severe tropical cyclone Trevor was named while south of Papua New Guinea on the 17th, then tracked through the Coral Sea to make landfall just south of Lockhart River on the eastern side of the Cape York Peninsula as a category 3 system on the 19th. Trevor re-intensified over the Gulf of Carpentaria before making a second landfall on the coast of the Northern Territory east of Port McArthur as a category 4 system.

Trevor brought widespread heavy rainfall across Cape York Peninsula and Queensland's north tropical coast of Queensland, as well as heavy rainfall about the southern coast of the Gulf. Some sites in Queensland had their highest March daily rainfall on record. Around 2500 evacuees from remote communities along the Northern Territory's western Gulf coast were given temporary accommodation in Darwin and Katherine ahead of the cyclone's landfall. The remnants of the ex-tropical cyclone continued to produce rainfall over the east of the Northern Territory and western Queensland, and contributed to heavy rainfall over eastern Australia associated with the passage of a trough and cold front at the end of the month. Some rain from this event is likely to join flood waters from events earlier in the year already making their way to Lake Eyre / Kati Thanda in South Australia.

Severe tropical cyclone Veronica was named in the early hours of the 20th while well offshore to the northwest of Western Australia. The system rapidly intensified to category 4 strength as it approached Port Hedland on the Pilbara coast, before turning west and tracking along the coast. Veronica was a slow moving system, generating moderate to locally very heavy falls over the Pilbara. Major flooding resulted along the Pilbara coast, with both Port Hedland and Karratha cut off by flooding, and multiple roads closed in the region, including the Great Northern Highway and North West Coastal Highway.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(of 120)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 59 56.2 −8%
Queensland 101 131.5 +45%
New South Wales 69 46.9 −4%
Victoria 48 27.8 −32%
Tasmania 48 75.2 −16%
South Australia 42 6.7 −64%
Western Australia 47 27.9 −36%
Northern Territory 44 57.9 −41%
Murray-Darling Basin 78 41.1 +7%

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 March 2019
Hottest day 48.1 °C    at Roebourne Aero (WA) on the 10th
Coldest day 0.6 °C    at Mount Hotham (Vic.) on the 30th
Coldest night −5.9 °C    at Perisher Valley AWS (NSW) on the 7th
Warmest night 32.6 °C    at Walungurru Airport (NT) on the 14th and Wittenoom (WA) on the 10th
Wettest day 302.0 mm at Lockhart River Airport (Qld) on the 20th


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 Monday 1 April 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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