Northern Territory in March 2012: Cool with a few very wet days

  • Cloudband brings heavy rains to Alice Springs District
  • Monsoon returns to the Top End
  • Palmerston sets new March daily rainfall record

Heavy rainfall in Alice Springs District

Widespread, heavy and persistent rainfall was recorded across southeast Australia, including the Alice Springs District, between 27 February and 5 March 2012, a result of a slow moving low pressure trough and associated cloudband (see Special Climate Statement 39 for more information). Several NT stations set new daily rainfall records for March from this event. Yambah Cattle Station measured 107.4 mm on the 1st, breaking the previous March daily rainfall record of 98.0 mm set in 1983. Mount Riddock had 98.0 mm fall on the 2nd, surpassing the previous record of 91.4 mm on 4th in 1972.

Tropical low impacts the Top End

On the 9th, a tropical low formed within the monsoon trough over the Timor Sea. Over the next few days the system, designated as 17U, slowly intensified. On March 14th the storm moved over land near the NT/WA border. It moved east across the Top End and emerged over the southern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria on the 16th. While the storm trekked across the Top End several daily rainfall records were set; the 14th and the 15th were especially wet. In addition to heavy rainfall, strong winds lashed the northwest coast. Darwin Airport, for example, measured a wind gust of 85 km/h on the 15th.

Monsoon returns to the Top End

This wet season has been marked by long break and burst periods in the North Australian Monsoon (NAM). February experienced a prolonged break period while March, especially toward the middle of the month, saw a monsoonal burst over the Top End.

Rainfall

On the 14th, as tropical low 17U moved over the Top End, Dum In Mirrie measured 136.0 mm surpassing their old recordof 131.0 mm from the 18th in 1999. Palmerston received 150 mm, 1 mm more than their previous March daily rainfall record set in 1997. On the 15th, Walker Creek recorded 164.4 mm and Beeboom Crossing had 146.5 mm, a new March daily rainfall record for both of these locations.

The wettest single day for the NT was the 14th. On the Channel Islandrecorded 219.1 mm, the highest daily total for the month in the Territory. The next highest total on the 14th was at Stokes Hill with 180.8 mm and Wagait Beach with 180.4 mm.

The highest rainfall total for the month Walker Creek with 680.0 mm, followed by Douglas River with 586.4 mm and Darwin Airport with 575.0 mm. In stark contrast, the driest overall was Bond Springs Turnoff with only 1.0 mm, followed by Coniston with 12.5 mm, and Warramunga with 12.8 mm. There is a map of monthly rainfall deciles below.

Temperature

The warmest mean temperature (average of maximum and minimum temperature) for March was Bradshaw with 29.4 °C, followed by Timber Creek and Cape Don with 29.2 °C and then Centre Island with 29.1 °C. The equal coolest for the month were Alice Springs Airport and Arltunga with 22.4 °C and then Curtin Springs with 23.4 °C followed by Yulara Aero with 23.9 °C.

Maximum temperature

The maximum temperature values were strongly influenced by rainfall this month. There were two big rainfall events in the Northern Territory this month, one in the south at the beginning of the month and the other in the north about halfway through the month. With rain and thick cloud cover, below average maximum temperatures correspond with these events. The coldest day in the NT this month was measured at Alice Springs Airport on the 2nd with a maximum temperature of only 18.0 °C, which is 14.6 °C below the March average. On the 1st Kulgera had a maximum temperature of 18.4 °C and Arltunga had 18.8 °C on the 2nd. Both the 1st and 2nd of March were cloudy and stormy days in the Alice Springs District.

When averaged across the whole month, most places in the NT were cooler than their mean daily maximum temperature. The places that had the coolest days on average were Arltunga with 28.4 °C, followed by Kulgera with 29.6 °C, and then Alice Springs Airport with 29.8 °C.

Even though most mean daily maximum temperatures were below average, there were still plenty of hot days across the Territory in March. The hottest days were experienced near the end of the month. Walungurru had the two hottest days with 38.8 °C on the 30th, and 38.6 on the 31st. This was followed by Curtin Springs with 38.5 °C on the 31st.

On average, the warmest days were at Rabbit Flat with a march average of 34.9 °C, followed by Timber Creek with 34.6 °C, and then Bradshaw with 34.4 °C. Even though these sites were the warmest on average across the Territory this month, they were still 1.0 °C, 0.8 °C and 0.7 °C below the long-term average for each site respectively.

Some sites, including Port Keats, had their coldest March day (lowest maximum temperature) on record. There is a map of maximum temperature anomalies below.

Minimum temperature

Most of the Territory saw near average minimum temperatures this month, with a few exceptions. There were several cool nights in the Alice Springs District later in the month. There were a few record low minimum temperatures set this month. Black Point and Rabbit Flat both had their lowest daily March temperature on record. In contrast, Groote Eylandt Airport and Port Keats both had their warmest March night (highest daily minimum temperature) on record. Arltunga had its lowest March mean daily minimum temperature on record. Tennant Creek Airport saw their coolest March since 2001 with a mean daily minimum temperature of 22.2 °C, one degree below their long term average. Yulara also saw below average minimum temperatures, with a monthly average of 16.4 °C, their coolest March in 10 years. There is a map of minimum temperature anomalies below.

The coldest night was on the 26th at Curtin Springs with 7.5 °C , followed by Alice Springs Airport with 8.9 °C on the 24th and then Alice Springs Airport again with 9.1 °C on the 25th. The coolest nights on average were at Alice Springs Airport with 15.0 °C, followed by Curtin Springs with 15.9 °C, and then Kulgera with 16.2 °C.

The warmest night was at Cape Don with 28.6 °C on the 22nd, followed by Dum In Mirrie AWS with 28.5 °C on the 21st. The warmest nights on average were at Cape Don with 26.3 °C, followed by North East Island with 26.0 °C, and then Centre Island with 25.8 °C.

Wind

The strongest wind gust was at Cape Wessel with 100 km/h on the 17th, followed by Darwin Airport with 85 km/h on the 15th, followed by Point Fawcett with 83 km/h on the 14th.

Further information

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Extremes in March 2012
Hottest day 38.8 °C at Walungurru on the 30th
Warmest days on average 34.9 °C at Rabbit Flat
Coolest days on average 28.4 °C at Arltunga
Coldest day 18.0 °C at Alice Springs Airport on the 2nd
Coldest night 7.5 °C at Curtin Springs on the 26th
Coolest nights on average 15.0 °C at Alice Springs Airport
Warmest nights on average 26.3 °C at Cape Don
Warmest night 28.6 °C at Cape Don on the 22nd
Warmest on average overall 29.4 °C at Bradshaw
Coolest on average overall 22.4 °C at Alice Springs Airport
Wettest overall 680.0 mm at Walker Creek
Driest overall 1.0 mm at Bond Springs Turnoff
Wettest day 219.1 mm at Channel Island on the 14th
Highest wind gust 100 km/h at Cape Wessel on the 17th

Maps

Anomaly in mean maximum temperature

Map of Anomaly in mean maximum temperature

Anomaly in mean minimum temperature

Map of Anomaly in mean minimum temperature

Rainfall deciles

Map of Rainfall deciles


Record highest March daily rainfall
Highest daily rainfall
in March 2012 (mm)
Previous wettest
for March
Years of
record
Yambah 107.4 on the 1st 98.0 on the 18th in 1983 45
Mount Riddock 98.0 on the 2nd 91.4 on the 4th in 1972 41
Douglas River 169.0 on the 15th 155.0 on the 3rd in 2000 39
Suplejack 126.0 on the 2nd 81.4 on the 24th in 1982 31
Palmerston 150.0 on the 14th 149.0 on the 5th in 1997 29
Gilnockie 143.4 on the 1st 123.0 on the 3rd in 2011 24
Walker Creek 164.4 on the 15th 164.0 on the 8th in 1995 19
Beeboom Crossing 146.5 on the 15th 90.0 on the 2nd in 1999 16
Dum In Mirrie AWS 136.0 on the 14th 131.0 on the 18th in 1999 15
Dashwood Crossing 100.4 on the 1st 71.8 on the 14th in 2006 14
Sleisbeck 120.0 on the 22nd 84.5 on the 13th in 2006 14
Bradshaw 84.4 on the 9th 84.0 on the 3rd in 2000 12
Upper Bond Springs 47.0 on the 2nd 37.0 on the 24th in 2007 11



Record highest total March rainfall
Total rainfall
for March 2012 (mm)
Previous wettest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Riveren 366.2 321.8 in 1982 43 106.4
Walker Creek 680.0 663.2 in 2000 16 334.0
Dashwood Crossing 289.0 260.0 in 2006 14 100.9




Record lowest March daily maximum temperature
Lowest daily maximum
temperature
in March 2012 (°C)
Previous coolest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Douglas River 25.9 on the 14th = 25.9 on the 2nd in 2000 21 33.7
Port Keats Aero 26.9 on the 15th 27.6 on the 12th in 2006 12 33.3
Papunya 21.5 on the 2nd 22.1 on the 22nd in 2011 11 34.9



Record highest March daily minimum temperature
Highest daily minimum
temperature
in March 2012 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Groote Eylandt Airport AWS 27.3 on the 19th 27.2 on the 14th in 2007 13 23.6
Port Keats Aero 27.7 on the 20th 27.0 on the 8th in 2001 12 24.0



Record lowest March temperature
Lowest temperature
in March 2012 (°C)
Previous coolest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Black Point 21.4 on the 14th = 21.4 on the 3rd in 2007 20 25.5
Rabbit Flat 12.4 on the 26th 13.5 on the 25th in 1997 16 21.6



Record lowest March mean daily minimum temperature
Mean daily minimum
temperature
for March 2012 (°C)
Previous coolest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Arltunga 16.4 16.7 in 2003 11 18.7


Summary statistics for March 2012
Maximum temperatures
(°C)
Minimum temperatures
(°C)
Rainfall
(millimetres)
Mean Diff
from
average
Highest Mean Diff
from
average
Lowest Total

long-term Average

Rank Fraction of
average
Darwin-Daly (district 14GA)
Batchelor Aero 32.1 -0.8 34.3 30th 23.4 0.0 19.4 26th 517.2 253.0 high 204%
Bradshaw 34.4 -0.7 37.6 30th 24.4 +0.4 19.2 26th 310.0 123.4 high 251%
Cape Don 32.0   34.2 31st 26.3   24.5 4th 226.2 241.0 average 94%
Central Arnhem Plateau 30.8   33.7 31st 22.4   19.5 25th 218.4
Channel Point 31.5 -0.3 33.6 30th 24.8 +0.3 21.1 26th 459.7 371.1 average 124%
Darwin Airport 31.8 -0.1 34.0 30th 24.8 +0.3 22.5 8th 575.0 321.4 v high 179%
Delamere Weapons Range 33.1 -1.1 35.1 31st 23.1 0.0 18.1 25th 240.2 160.7 average 149%
Douglas River 32.6 -1.1 34.7 21st 23.6 +0.5 19.0 26th 586.4 233.8 v high 251%
Dum In Mirrie AWS 31.6 0.0 33.1 26th 25.2 +0.1 21.7 26th 394.4 335.9 average 117%
Jabiru Airport 33.3 -0.2 35.7 31st 24.3 0.0 21.6 17th 288.0 320.5 average 90%
Katherine Country Club 33.5   35.5 23rd 23.3   17.4 25th 284.0
Mango Farm 33.1 -0.8 35.7 13th 23.5 -0.1 19.7 26th 488.5 228.2 v high 214%
McCluer Island 30.8 -0.1 32.5 7th 25.7 -0.1 22.9 25th 384.2 217.6 high 177%
Middle Point AWS 33.0 -0.3 35.9 21st 23.8 -0.1 20.2 26th 451.8 273.2 high 165%
Noonamah AWS 33.3   36.0 30th 24.0   20.6 26th 423.0
Oenpelli 32.5 -0.4 35.0 31st 24.4 0.0 21.9 17th 462.6 281.5 high 164%
Pirlangimpi 31.9 0.0 33.8 27th 24.5 +0.5 22.5 29th 370.0 358.2 average 103%
Port Keats Aero 32.7 -0.6 35.3 30th 24.3 +0.3 20.1 26th 136.4 202.8 average 67%
Tindal RAAF 33.2 -0.9 35.4 30th 23.4 +0.4 17.4 25th 193.4 168.5 average 115%
Arnhem (district 14BC)
Cape Wessel 31.3   32.9 1st 25.0   22.5 17th 23.4 201.5 low 12%
Gove Airport 31.1 -0.1 33.0 23rd 24.1 +0.2 21.7 30th 270.0 273.9 average 99%
Groote Eylandt Airport AWS 32.1 -0.2 33.8 31st 24.3 +0.7 20.9 30th 229.2 333.2 low 69%
Maningrida Aero 31.9   33.7 21st 24.3   22.7 26th 367.6
Ngayawili 31.4 -0.1 33.1 7th 24.7 0.0 22.8 25th 397.0 290.8 high 137%
North East Island 31.7   33.8 23rd 26.0   23.0 9th 185.0 197.9 average 93%
Warruwi 31.6 +0.2 33.5 7th 25.1 -0.1 23.0 17th 181.2 237.7 average 76%
Roper-Mcarthur (district 14DE)
Borroloola 33.2 -0.1 35.4 6th 22.9 -0.4 18.0 25th 166.2 167.8 average 99%
Bulman AWS 33.7   35.7 21st 23.3   18.5 25th 249.2
Centre Island 32.4 -0.4 34.8 22nd 25.8 -0.5 23.7 2nd 242.4 271.3 average 89%
Daly Waters AWS 32.9 -1.7 34.9 9th 22.6 +0.1 15.9 25th 254.6 114.1 high 223%
Larrimah 32.8 -1.2 34.5 21st 22.3 -0.2 16.9 28th 162.8 154.2 average 106%
McArthur River Mine 34.0 -0.9 36.8 6th 23.8 +0.5 18.6 24th 230.4 145.8 high 158%
Ngukurr 33.6 -0.5 36.9 21st 24.2 +0.2 21.9 25th 216.2 174.8 average 124%
Wollogorang 32.7 -1.7 35.2 10th 23.1 +0.4 18.7 24th 220.6 163.6 high 135%
Victoria (district 14F)
Kidman Springs 33.9 -1.5 36.4 31st 23.9 +0.5 18.4 26th 239.1 127.8 high 187%
Lajamanu 32.9 -1.7 35.7 31st 22.0 0.0 14.9 26th 247.4 84.9 v high 291%
Timber Creek 34.6 -0.8 36.9 21st 23.8 +0.3 18.4 26th 235.0 163.7 average 144%
Victoria River Downs 33.1 -2.0 35.8 31st 23.5 +0.3 17.2 25th 284.4 110.1 v high 258%
Wave Hill 32.9 -2.5 35.5 31st 22.8 +0.7 16.1 25th 323.9 125.5 v high 258%
Barkly (district 15A)
Brunette Downs     36.7 10th 22.2 -0.1 15.3 24th 64.2 56.5 average 114%
Elliott 33.0 -2.7 35.5 9th 22.2 0.0 14.7 25th
Tennant Creek Airport 31.9 -2.4 35.0 31st 22.2 -1.0 17.7 25th 109.2 58.5 high 187%
Alice Springs (district 15B)
Alice Springs Airport 29.8 -2.8 36.2 31st 15.0 -2.5 8.9 24th 40.8 32.4 high 126%
Arltunga 28.4 -3.3 34.1 31st 16.4 -2.3 11.6 28th 81.8 40.6 high 201%
Curtin Springs 30.9 -2.8 38.5 31st 15.9 -2.5 7.5 26th 56.0 28.7 high 195%
Jervois 31.2 -3.4 36.4 31st 19.1 -0.1 14.0 24th 31.0 33.5 average 93%
Kulgera 29.6 -2.6 36.1 31st 16.2 -1.9 10.5 26th 45.6 31.4 high 145%
Papunya 32.0 -2.9 37.0 31st 18.0   12.8 25th 27.8 48.6 average 57%
Rabbit Flat 34.9 -1.0 38.2 31st 21.9 +0.3 12.4 26th 29.4 82.5 average 36%
Territory Grape Farm 31.1 -3.0 34.8 31st 18.2 -1.4 12.3 24th 38.0 22.2 high 171%
Walungurru 33.7   38.8 30th 22.2   17.0 3rd 20.6 57.3 average 36%
Yulara Aero 31.3 -3.0 37.9 31st 16.4 -2.7 12.4 3rd 81.8 37.9 high 216%

Notes

A Monthly Climate Summary is prepared to list the main features of the weather in Northern Territory 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.

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 11 am on Monday 2 April 2012. Some checks have been made on the data, but it is possible that results will change as new information becomes available.

Averages are long-term means based on observations from all available years of record, which vary widely from site to site. They are not shown for sites with less than 10 years of record, as they cannot then be calculated reliably.
The median is sometimes more representative than the mean of long-term average rain.

The Rank indicates how rainfall this time compares with the climate record for the site, based on the decile ranking (very low rainfall is in decile 1, low in decile 2 or 3, average in decile 4 to 7, high in decile 8 or 9 and very high is in decile 10).
The Fraction of average shows how much rain has fallen this time as a percentage of the long-term mean.

Further information

Media
(03) 9669 4057
Enquiries