Northern Territory in March 2013: Wet weather finally arrives to the Top End

The wet season up to the end of February was hot and dry with many locations having the lowest wet season rainfall on record to that point in the season. In March, especially the last half of March, wet, monsoonal weather finally arrived in the Northern Territory and increased rainfall totals. The driver for the wet weather was the passage of a westward moving equatorial Rossby wave during the last week of March which revived the monsoon trough. A slow-moving, weak tropical low formed within the monsoon trough and moved along the north coast.

A tale of two atmospheric waves

There were two main drivers of the rainfall this month. The first was the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), an eastward moving pulse of tropical weather which contributed to rainfall over the Top End in the beginning of the month. By the second week of March the MJO had moved east and all climate indicators suggested that drier conditions would replace the wet weather. However, in the second half of the month a westward moving equatorial Rossby wave moved over the Top End and produced conditions favorable for the formation of a monsoon trough off Australia's north coast. In the last week of March, a weak, slow-moving low pressure system formed within the monsoon trough and drenched the Top End as it moved along the north coast.

Gove Airport doubles wet season total

From 1 October through 28 February, Gove Airport had received only 290.8 mm of rainfall. In March 411.4 mm fell at Gove and of that, 347.0 mm fell in the last 8 days of the month. The long term average March rainfall at Gove Airport is 278.7 mm and the highest recorded March total rainfall is 514.6 mm measured in 1988.

Tennant Creek Airport sees hottest March day

The southern portion of the Territory experienced a series of very hot days in the early part of the month, with Tennant Creek Airport measuring three consecutive days above 40 °C from the 6th through 8th. On the 7th Tennant Creek Airport reached 41.4 °C, their hottest March day on record, passing the previous record of 40.7 °C set on 3 March 1988. The long term average daily maximum temperature for March at Tennant Creek is 34.2 °C.

Rainfall

Rainfall this month across the NT, was average to above average for most locations. The area-averaged rainfall for the NT this month was 107 mm; this is 9 mm above the long-term average. This includes rainfall at places like Jervois that did not receive any rain in March and Bing Bong Port, which was the wettest overall with 634.9 mm. There was some monsoon activity in the first part of the month, followed by a week of monsoon break conditions. Beginning around the 23rd a slow-moving weak tropical low moved from east to west along the north coast bringing heavy rain and monsoon-like conditions to the Top End. Most of the rain fell across the Arnhem District within the last eight days of the month.

In addition to Bing Bong Port, mentioned above, the next highest rainfall totals across the Territory were at Milingimbi AWS with 633.0 mm and then McCluer Island with 561.1 mm, a new March rainfall record for both of these sites. Bing Bong Port also saw their highest March daily rainfall on record with 233.0 mm on the 28th. The driest overall was Jervois with 0 mm (mentioned above), Ormiston Gorge with 0.3 mm, and then Upper Bond Springs with 1.0 mm.

Temperature

When combining maximum and minimum temperatures, the mean temperature in the NT this month was 29.46 °C, which is 1.65 °C above average. Generally, both maximum and minimum temperatures were above average for most of the Territory this month. There were a few mean temperature record set this month including at Borroloola where the mean monthly temperature was 29.2 °C. The warmest on average was Walungurru with 31.3 °C, followed by Brunette Downs with 31.2 °C, and then Rabbit Flat, Tennant Creek Airport and Victoria River Downs each with 30.9 °C. The coolest on average was Kulgera with 26.3 °C, followed by Arltunga with 26.7 °C, and then Alice Springs Airport with 27.1 °C.

Maximum temperature

The mean maximum temperature across the NT in March was 35.87 °C, over two degrees above the long-term average. Territory Grape Farm recorded their highest March mean daily maximum temperature on record. While Tennant Creek, Borroloola, and Groote Eylandt Airport, among others, measured their highest March temperature on record. In the north, the main driver behind above average maximum temperatures was a lack of cloud cover for the middle part of the month.

The two hottest days in the NT were at Brunette Downs with 42.9 °C (a new record) on the 7th and 42.3 °C on the 6th. When averaged over the whole month Brunette Downs was the warmest on average in the NT with a mean daily maximum temperature of 38.4 °C. This is the warmest March in 21 years at Brunette Downs.

In addition to the 38.4 °C mean daily maximum temperature at Brunette Downs, there were a few other notably warm locations across the NT this month: Rabbit Flat had 38.2 °C, Victoria River Downs had 37.6 °C, and Walungurru also had a mean daily maximum temperature of 37.6 °C this month. The coolest days on average were at McCluer Island with 31.0 °C, followed by Croker Island Airport with 31.2 °C, and then Darwin Harbour with 31.4 °C.

The coldest day in the NT in March was recorded at Kulgera with 18.2 °C on the 28th, followed by Curtin Springs with 19.0 °C on the 30th, and then Yulara Aero with 20.0 °C on the 28th.

Minimum temperature

High humidity across the NT kept minimum temperatures up, this month. With a Territory-wide average of 23.1 °C, 1.3 °C above the norm. March 2013 was the warmest since 2007. Gove Airport had a mean daily minimum temperature of 24.6 °C which is their warmest March in 23 years. Channel Point, Ngayawili, and Bradshaw each had their highest March mean daily minimum temperature on record. Several sites saw their warmest March night (highest daily minimum temperature) on record including Borroloola with 28.4 °C on the 1st, McCluer Island with 28.7 °C on the 19th and Groote Eylandt with 29.7 °C on the 1st.

The coldest night was at Kulgera with 12.4 °C on the 31st, followed by Alice Springs Airport and Arltunga with 12.5 °C on the 21st, followed by Alice Springs Airport with 13.1 °C on the 19th. Milingimbi recorded their lowest March temperature on record with 21.9 °C on the 13th. The coolest nights on average were at Alice Springs Airport with 19.0 °C, followed by Arltunga with 19.7 °C, and then Kulgera with 19.8 °C.

The warmest nights on average were at North East Island with 26.5 °C, followed by Cape Don with 26.4 °C, and then McCluer Island with 26.2 °C. The warmest night was at Centre Island with 30.3 °C on the 1st, followed by Centre Island with 30.1 °C on the 6th, and then Walungurru with 30.0 °C on the 6th.

Wind

The strongest wind gust was at Territory Grape Farm with 93 km/h on the 13th, followed by Centre Island with 91 km/h on the 2nd, Bradshaw with 91 km/h on the 10th, and then Central Arnhem Plateau with 89 km/h on the 14th.

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Extremes in March 2013
Hottest day 42.9 °C at Brunette Downs on the 7th
Warmest days on average 38.4 °C at Brunette Downs
Coolest days on average 31.0 °C at McCluer Island
Coldest day 18.2 °C at Kulgera on the 28th
Coldest night 12.4 °C at Kulgera on the 31st
Coolest nights on average 19.0 °C at Alice Springs Airport
Warmest nights on average 26.5 °C at North East Island
Warmest night 30.3 °C at Centre Island on the 1st
Warmest on average overall 31.3 °C at Walungurru
Coolest on average overall 26.3 °C at Kulgera
Wettest overall 634.9 mm at Bing Bong Port
Driest overall 0 mm at Jervois
Highest wind gust 93 km/h at Territory Grape Farm on the 13th

Maps
ObservedAnomalyDecile rank
Total
rainfall
Map of Rainfall totals Map of Percentage of normal rainfall Map of Rainfall deciles
Mean
daily
maximum
temperatures
Map of Mean maximum temperature Map of Anomaly in mean maximum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean maximum temperature
Mean
daily
minimum
temperatures
Map of Mean minimum temperature Map of Anomaly in mean minimum temperature Map of Decile rank of mean minimum temperature

Click on a map to show it full size in a pop-up window


Record highest March daily rainfall
Highest daily rainfall
in March 2013 (mm)
Previous wettest
for March
Years of
record
Mataranka Homestead Resort 213.2 on the 29th 180.3 on the 27th in 1918 70
Dorisvale 226.0 on the 30th 201.0 on the 2nd in 2000 29
Walker Creek 197.4 on the 4th 164.4 on the 15th in 2012 20
Bing Bong Port 233.0 on the 28th 220.0 on the 18th in 2006 18
Lakefield 124.2 on the 29th 116.0 on the 8th in 2003 14
Bradshaw 87.6 on the 29th 84.4 on the 9th in 2012 13
Upper Waterhouse River 182.4 on the 31st 113.8 on the 24th in 2001 13
Nitmiluk Ridge 113.4 on the 28th 103.8 on the 3rd in 2004 11
Cave Creek Station 202.0 on the 29th 91.4 on the 12th in 2006 10
Edith Farms Road 129.2 on the 30th 120.4 on the 9th in 2008 10
Milingimbi AWS 179.6 on the 30th 120.0 on the 13th in 2005 10
Snowdrop Creek 158.0 on the 31st 101.0 on the 13th in 2007 10



Record highest total March rainfall
Total rainfall
for March 2013 (mm)
Previous wettest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
McCluer Island 561.2 483.4 in 2005 18 236.7
Upper Fergusson River 474.6 331.0 in 1999 15 195.5
Edith Farms Road 498.4 487.2 in 2007 10 269.6
Foelsche Headland 379.4 325.6 in 2012 10 204.8
Milingimbi AWS 633.0 518.0 in 2011 10 285.9



Record lowest total March rainfall
Total rainfall
for March 2013 (mm)
Previous driest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Jervois 0.0 = 0.0 in 2009 48 32.8
Berry Springs Rangers 58.8 = 58.8 in 1992 28 290.6



Record highest March temperature
Highest temperature
in March 2013 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Brunette Downs 42.9 on the 7th 42.5 on the 1st in 1983 50 35.0
Tennant Creek Airport 41.4 on the 7th 40.7 on the 3rd in 1988 44 34.2
Borroloola 38.8 on the 5th 38.0 on the 9th in 2005 19 33.3
Territory Grape Farm 41.3 on the 22nd 40.8 on the 3rd in 2009 17 33.9
Groote Eylandt Airport AWS 36.7 on the 6th 36.0 on the 27th in 2002 14 32.3



Record lowest March daily maximum temperature
Lowest daily maximum
temperature
in March 2013 (°C)
Previous coolest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Delamere Weapons Range 24.3 on the 29th 26.0 on the 19th in 2006 16 34.1



Record highest March mean daily maximum temperature
Mean daily maximum
temperature
for March 2013 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Territory Grape Farm 37.5 36.8 in 1999 16 33.9




Record highest March daily minimum temperature
Highest daily minimum
temperature
in March 2013 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Borroloola 28.4 on the 1st 28.0 on the 1st in 1997 19 23.3
McCluer Island 28.7 on the 19th 28.6 on the 8th in 2006 15 25.8
Groote Eylandt Airport AWS 29.7 on the 1st 27.3 on the 19th in 2012 14 23.6
Ngayawili 29.2 on the 8th 29.1 on the 22nd in 2009 14 24.7
Bradshaw 27.0 on the 9th 26.9 on the 2nd in 2007 13 24.0
Milingimbi AWS 27.9 on the 8th 27.2 on the 14th in 2011 11 24.8



Record lowest March temperature
Lowest temperature
in March 2013 (°C)
Previous coolest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Milingimbi AWS 21.9 on the 13th 22.0 on the 13th in 2004 11 24.8



Record highest March mean daily minimum temperature
Mean daily minimum
temperature
for March 2013 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Channel Point 25.3 25.2 in 2005 18 24.5
Ngayawili 25.6 25.2 in 2007 13 24.7
Bradshaw 25.1 24.7 in 2011 12 24.0



Summary statistics for March 2013
Maximum temperatures
for March
(°C)
Minimum temperatures
for March
(°C)
Rainfall
for March
(millimetres)
Mean for
March
2013
Diff
from
average
Highest for
March
2013
Mean for
March
2013
Diff
from
average
Lowest for
March
2013
Total for
March
2013
Average
for
March
Rank of
March
2013
Fraction of
March
average
Darwin-Daly (district 14GA)
Batchelor Aero 33.1 +0.3 35.8 17th 23.7 +0.3 20.8 14th 364.0 258.9 average 141%
Bradshaw 36.6 +1.6 39.5 21st 25.1 +1.1 23.5 5th 231.8 131.8 high 176%
Cape Don 32.7   34.7 18th 26.4   23.4 5th 353.6 247.2 high 143%
Central Arnhem Plateau 31.8   35.8 22nd 23.1   19.5 15th 430.6 297.3 high 145%
Channel Point 31.9 +0.1 33.5 17th 25.3 +0.8 23.4 26th 190.9 363.8 low 52%
Croker Island Airport 31.2   33.1 17th 25.3   20.5 14th 455.2
Darwin Airport 32.0 +0.1 34.7 17th 25.1 +0.6 22.9 14th 373.2 322.0 high 116%
Darwin NTC AWS 31.4   34.0 16th 25.6   21.7 18th
Delamere Weapons Range 35.4 +1.3 38.9 14th 23.8 +0.7 21.5 21st 228.8 165.0 average 139%
Douglas River 34.5 +0.9 36.7 21st 23.6 +0.5 21.6 17th 362.4 236.7 high 153%
Dum In Mirrie AWS 31.8 +0.2 33.0 21st 25.6 +0.5 22.0 14th 344.2 336.4 average 102%
Jabiru Airport 33.7 +0.2 36.6 17th 24.9 +0.6 22.8 15th 445.6 323.8 high 138%
Katherine Country Club 35.0   38.1 21st 23.8   21.6 4th 389.0
Mango Farm 33.9 0.0 36.8 17th 24.1 +0.5 22.1 17th 253.4 222.2 average 114%
McCluer Island 31.0 +0.1 32.9 16th 26.2 +0.4 22.4 14th 561.2 236.7 highest 237%
Middle Point AWS 34.1 +0.8 36.7 15th 23.7 -0.2 21.6 14th 250.6 271.3 average 92%
Murganella Airstrip 31.9   34.3 17th 23.8   19.8 14th 15.0
Noonamah AWS 33.8   36.8 17th 24.0   19.4 14th 345.4
Oenpelli Airport 32.8   35.4 22nd 24.7   22.6 14th 331.0
Pirlangimpi 32.2 +0.3 34.1 18th 24.4 +0.4 22.1 14th 516.4 361.7 high 143%
Point Fawcett 31.9 +0.3 33.5 16th 25.3 +0.4 22.0 14th 241.4 220.5 average 109%
Point Stuart AWS 31.9   34.1 11th 25.1   22.8 14th 293.2 232.9 average 126%
Tindal RAAF 34.1 +0.1 37.3 21st 24.0 +1.0 21.8 9th 301.6 172.8 high 175%
Arnhem (district 14BC)
Cape Wessel 31.5   33.4 22nd 25.7   21.3 14th
Gove Airport 32.1 +0.9 35.4 7th 24.6 +0.7 21.3 19th 411.4 278.0 high 148%
Groote Eylandt Airport AWS 32.3 0.0 36.7 6th 24.8 +1.2 22.3 21st 503.2 345.4 high 146%
Maningrida Aero 31.9   35.0 13th 24.5   22.8 19th 577.0
Ngayawili 31.7 +0.2 33.6 23rd 25.6 +0.9 22.9 19th 326.8 293.4 average 111%
North East Island 32.4   34.6 22nd 26.5   23.6 28th 465.0 209.0 high 222%
Warruwi 31.7 +0.3 34.9 1st 25.5 +0.3 22.4 14th 368.6 239.1 high 154%
Roper-Mcarthur (district 14DE)
Borroloola 34.3 +1.0 38.8 5th 24.1 +0.8 22.1 29th 401.8 180.1 high 223%
Centre Island 33.4 +0.6 37.3 6th 26.0 -0.3 22.6 9th 132.4 268.3 average 49%
Daly Waters AWS 36.1 +1.6 40.5 21st 23.1 +0.6 19.3 21st 184.2 115.6 high 159%
McArthur River Mine 35.8 +0.9 40.0 5th 25.2 +1.9 23.1 9th 240.6 148.3 high 162%
Ngukurr AWS 34.6   39.6 21st 24.9   22.2 9th 333.6
Wollogorang     40.6 1st 23.5 +0.8 19.5 3rd 69.8 161.0 average 43%
Victoria (district 14F)
Timber Creek 36.3 +0.9 39.5 21st 24.8 +1.3 19.9 20th 116.8 162.3 average 72%
Victoria River Downs 37.6 +2.6 40.8 17th 24.0 +0.8 17.5 21st 75.8 109.8 average 69%
Barkly (district 15A)
Brunette Downs 38.4 +3.4 42.9 7th 24.0 +1.7 19.5 21st 10.3 56.2 average 18%
Elliott 37.3 +1.7 40.9 22nd 23.3 +1.1 17.4 20th 64.5 86.6 average 74%
Tennant Creek Airport 37.2 +3.0 41.4 7th 24.6 +1.4 21.4 30th 15.4 57.4 average 27%
Alice Springs (district 15B)
Alice Springs Airport 35.1 +2.5 40.3 21st 19.0 +1.5 12.5 20th 25.8 32.3 average 80%
Arltunga 33.9 +2.4 38.8 22nd 19.7 +1.2 12.5 21st 1.8 40.0 average 5%
Curtin Springs 34.9 +1.2 40.9 21st 20.6 +2.2 13.3 31st 60.5 29.2 high 207%
Jervois 36.9 +2.4 40.6 26th 21.5 +2.3 15.3 20th 0 32.8 lowest 0%
Kulgera 33.0 +0.9 39.2 12th 19.8 +1.8 12.4 31st 35.5 31.5 high 113%
Rabbit Flat 38.2 +2.4 42.0 22nd 23.7 +2.1 17.1 20th 34.0 79.5 average 43%
Territory Grape Farm 37.5 +3.6 41.3 22nd 21.5 +2.0 14.5 20th 14.8 21.9 average 68%
Walungurru 37.6 +1.8 42.3 6th 25.0 +1.1 17.2 29th 65.2 58.0 average 112%
Yulara Aero 35.7 +1.6 40.9 12th 21.6 +2.6 14.8 30th 49.0 38.4 high 128%

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 2 pm on Tuesday 2 April 2013. 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.

The ACORN-SAT data set is being used for temperature area averages from December 2012 onwards. The major change from earlier data sets is that the ACORN-SAT data set commences in 1910, rather than 1950, and hence rankings are calculated using a larger set of years.

Further information

Media
(03) 9669 4057
Enquiries