Northern Territory in December 2018: Record-breaking heat; driest December since 2002

Averaged across the Northern Territory, December 2018 had the highest daytime and overnight temperature ever recorded during the month of December. It was also a very dry month, with the Territory recording only half of its December average rainfall.

Hottest December on record

  • Territory-wide, the mean maximum and mean minimum temperatures were the highest observed in December
  • The mean maximum temperature across the NT was 3.28 °C above the long-term average, 1.40 °C higher than the previous warmest December in 1972: virtually the entire NT had a mean maximum temperature within the highest 10% of years (decile 10)
  • Multiple sites had either their highest December temperature on record, their highest December mean daily maximum temperature on record, or highest December mean daily maximum temperature for at least 25 years
  • All sites in the Territory had above average mean minimum temperatures, with well above half of the NT very much above average. Overall, the mean minimum temperature across the NT was 2.47 °C above the long-term average and highest for any December
  • Multiple sites had either their warmest December night (highest daily minimum temperature) on record, their highest December mean daily minimum temperature on record, or highest December mean daily minimum temperature for at least 25 years
  • The Territory-wide mean tempearture (maximum and minimum combined) was 2.88 °C above the long-term average, 1.46 °C higher than the previous highest mean temperature of December 1990
  • Several sites had an exceptionally hot month, smashing previous record counts for consecutive hot days and numbers of hot days within a month
  • For days above 40 °C, Rabbit Flat in the central west exceeded its previous consecutive run of 11 days in December 2006, with 30 in December 2018 (and continuing in early 2019); Tennant Creek had a total of 28 days above 40 °C, its highest in any month; Victoria River Downs also set a new all-months record with 25 days above 40 °C in December 2018. Elliott (18), Lajamanu (17), Walungurru (16) and Territory Grape Farm (8) all beat their previous December record for consecutive days above 40 °C
  • Rabbit Flat also had 17 days above 44 °C, including six in a row, easily exceeding the previous record for any month of three total days. Rabbit Flat even had eight days in excess of 45 °C, only ever having recorded two such days in any previous month

A dry end to the year

  • Averaged across the Territory, December rainfall was less than half (48%) of average; monsoon onset failed to occur across the Top End during December (the average onset date at Darwin is the last week of December)
  • Only parts of the northeast Top End and the far southwest of the NT had above average rainfall
  • The eastern half of the NT was particularly dry, generally receiving only about 10% of average rainfall during December
  • Many sites throughout the Northern Territory had either their lowest total December rainfall on record or lowest total December rainfall for at least 20 years

Darwin Airport

  • Total rainfall for Darwin Airport was 69.2 mm, which is 28% of the long-term average of 251.1 mm
  • The mean daily maximum temperature for Darwin Airport was 34.0 °C, which is 1.3 °C above the long-term average of 32.7 °C. The warmest day was 35.5 °C on the 25th, and the coolest day was on the 26th when the temperature reached 29.0 °C
  • The mean daily minimum temperature for Darwin Airport was 27.1 °C, which is 1.8 °C above the long-term average of 25.3 °C. The coldest morning was 22.5 °C on the 13th, and the warmest morning was on the 12th when the minimum temperature was 30.0 °C

Alice Springs Airport

  • Total rainfall for Alice Springs Airport was 2.4 mm, which is 6% of the long-term average of 38.2 mm
  • The mean daily maximum temperature for Alice Springs Airport was 39.0 °C, which is 3.6 °C above the long-term average of 35.4 °C and the highest on record. The warmest day was 45.6 °C on the 29th, and the coolest day was on the 3rd when the temperature reached 29.0 °C
  • The mean daily minimum temperature for Alice Springs Airport was 21.5 °C, which is 1.2 °C above the long-term average of 20.3 °C. The coldest morning was 12.4 °C on the 15th, and the warmest morning was on the 28th when the minimum temperature was 28.9 °C

Severe thunderstorms across the Northern Territory

  • Severe squall-line thunderstorms moved over the southern NT on the 1st, with a severe gust of 106 km/h recorded at Ernabella, just south of the NT border
  • Severe storms hit the Top End on the 5th and 6th with a peak wind gust of 131 km/h recorded at Tindal, near Katherine, on the 5th and 91 km/h at the same site on the 6th
  • Severe thunderstorms affected southern parts of the Top End on the 18th, generating heavy rainfall with a 2% annual exceedance probability (i.e. 1 in 50 year event) at Old Delamere, south of Katherine, and a gust of 89 km/h at Bradshaw
  • On 25 December, a severe storm produced a gust of 94 km/h at Victoria River Downs, south of the western Top End

Further information

Media
(03) 9669 4057
Enquiries

Extremes in December 2018
Hottest day 47.1 °C at Rabbit Flat on the 12th
47.1 °C at Rabbit Flat on the 19th
Warmest days on average 43.7 °C at Rabbit Flat
Coolest days on average 32.7 °C at Charles Point
32.7 °C at McCluer Island
Coldest day 27.8 °C at Centre Island on the 13th
Coldest night 9.5 °C at Arltunga on the 15th
Coolest nights on average 20.6 °C at Arltunga
Warmest nights on average 28.5 °C at Centre Island
Warmest night 33.8 °C at Walungurru Airport on the 30th
Warmest on average overall 35.0 °C at Rabbit Flat
Coolest on average overall 29.3 °C at Central Arnhem Plateau
Wettest overall 279.6 mm at Mount Bundey South (Defence)
Wettest day 166.0 mm at Bing Bong Port on the 14th
Strongest wind gust 131 km/h at Tindal RAAF on the 5th

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 December daily rainfall
New record
(mm)
Old
record
Years of
record
Bing Bong Port 166.0 on the 14th 142.0 on the 4th in 2000 23



Record lowest December total rainfall
New record
(mm)
Old
record
Years of
record
Average for
December
Adelaide River Post Office 90.5 94.0 in 2012 55 262.8
Tennant Creek Airport 0.2 1.8 in 1981 50 74.5
Scott Creek 59.5 59.6 in 1991 30 170.2
Birrindudu 13.0 13.2 in 1992 25 103.9
Thorak Cemetery 51.2 73.4 in 2017 25 325.5
Darwin Hospital 78.9 94.8 in 2012 23 304.0
Shoal Bay 26.0 34.3 in 1991 23 307.6
Walker Creek 84.9 97.0 in 2013 22 318.4

Lowest December total rainfall for at least 20 years
Observed
(mm)
Most recent
lower
Average for
December
Epenarra 2.0 0.0 in 1982* 59.5
Arltunga 0.6 0.0 in 1955* 41.3
Darwin Airport 69.2 18.8 in 1991 251.1
Howard Springs Nature Park 95.0 46.9 in 1991 295.4
Leanyer 85.0 13.6 in 1991 300.2
Victoria River Downs 52.6 26.7 in 1991 119.1
Elizabeth Valley 106.4 74.6 in 1991* 298.4
Gilnockie 43.4 32.6 in 1991* 172.7
Lajamanu Airport 5.8 1.8 in 1991* 77.6
Watarrka 5.7 2.5 in 1991* 38.5
Batchelor Airport 87.2 26.0 in 1997* 267.5
Territory Grape Farm 1.8 0.0 in 1998 56.0

* note: there are gaps in the historical record at this site, so it is possible a lower value has gone unreported




Record highest December temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Average for
December
Alice Springs Airport 45.6 on the 29th 44.2 on the 23rd in 1972 78 35.4
Curtin Springs 46.9 on the 30th 45.9 on the 6th in 1981 53 36.4
Victoria River Downs 44.7 on the 11th 44.2 on the 19th in 1985 53 37.7
Yuendumu 44.8 on the 29th 44.6 on the 2nd in 2007 47 36.2
Gove Airport 38.7 on the 4th 38.0 on the 16th in 1967 40 33.0
Kulgera 45.5 on the 29th 45.2 on the 23rd in 2005 39 34.8
Yulara Airport 46.1 on the 30th 45.6 on the 27th in 1986 33 36.5
Watarrka 46.0 on the 30th 45.3 on the 21st in 1990 28 36.2
Lajamanu Airport 46.2 on the 12th 45.4 on the 8th in 2009 27 38.1
Territory Grape Farm 45.5 on the 19th 43.7 on the 30th in 2002 27 36.2
Borroloola Airport 44.6 on the 5th 43.3 on the 6th in 2012 25 36.4
Rabbit Flat 47.1 on the 19th 46.3 on the 6th in 2004 23 38.5
Bradshaw 44.4 on the 6th 44.0 on the 5th in 2009 21 36.5
Groote Eylandt Airport 40.7 on the 6th 39.1 on the 1st in 2007 20 34.3



Record highest December mean daily maximum temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Average for
December
Alice Springs Airport 39.0 38.4 in 1972 77 35.4
Curtin Springs 39.2 38.9 in 2014 52 36.4
Jervois 40.5 40.1 in 1972 50 37.7
Tennant Creek Airport 41.3 39.8 in 1972 49 37.1
Yuendumu 39.6 38.9 in 1985 46 36.2
Kulgera 38.2 37.7 in 2005 38 34.8
Elliott 42.2 41.4 in 2002 37 38.4
Yulara Airport 39.5 39.1 in 2014 32 36.5
Lajamanu Airport 43.3 41.0 in 1972 26 38.1
Territory Grape Farm 40.6 38.1 in 1998 26 36.2
Borroloola Airport 39.0 38.7 in 2002 24 36.4
Rabbit Flat 43.7 41.7 in 2004 22 38.5
Bradshaw 39.6 38.7 in 2002 20 36.5
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 33.7 = 33.7 in 2012 20 32.5

Highest December mean daily maximum temperature for at least 20 years
Observed
(°C)
Most recent
higher
Average for
December
Victoria River Downs 41.4 42.2 in 1972 37.7
Tindal RAAF 37.8 38.0 in 1986* 35.6
McArthur River Mine Airport 40.4 40.6 in 1990* 37.7

* note: there are gaps in the historical record at this site, so it is possible a higher value has gone unreported




Record highest December daily minimum temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Average for
December
Darwin Airport 30.0 on the 12th 29.7 on the 17th in 2014 78 25.3
Jervois 32.7 on the 20th 32.5 on the 29th in 2017 51 21.5
Pirlangimpi Airport 29.3 on the 12th 29.0 on the 3rd in 2007 36 24.7
Douglas River Research Farm 27.4 on the 12th 27.3 on the 11th in 2004 30 23.8
Batchelor Airport 27.4 on the 12th 27.2 on the 7th in 2012 23 24.1
Rabbit Flat 33.5 on the 13th 32.2 on the 9th in 2009 23 23.7
Point Fawcett 29.9 on the 12th = 29.9 on the 7th in 2012 22 25.6
Bradshaw 29.2 on the 12th = 29.2 on the 10th in 2009 21 25.5
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 30.0 on the 12th = 30.0 on the 10th in 2009 21 26.1
McCluer Island 30.0 on the 7th = 30.0 on the 28th in 2002 20 27.1
Ngayawili 30.5 on the 7th 30.3 on the 2nd in 2007 20 25.7



Record highest December mean daily minimum temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Average for
December
Tennant Creek Airport 28.0 26.9 in 1979 49 24.8
Gove Airport 26.2 25.9 in 1990 39 24.6
Elliott 26.4 25.8 in 2001 37 24.4
Pirlangimpi Airport 26.4 25.9 in 2000 35 24.7
Tindal RAAF 25.6 = 25.6 in 2009 30 24.8
Douglas River Research Farm 24.9 24.8 in 2014 29 23.8
Lajamanu Airport 26.6 25.2 in 2016 26 24.2
Territory Grape Farm 23.2 22.7 in 2012 26 21.2
Channel Point 26.6 26.3 in 2014 24 25.0
Batchelor Airport 25.0 = 25.0 in 2014 22 24.1
Rabbit Flat 26.3 25.1 in 2005 22 23.7
Point Fawcett 27.2 26.8 in 2014 21 25.6
Bradshaw 26.8 26.4 in 2009 20 25.5
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 27.2 26.9 in 2014 20 26.1

Highest December mean daily minimum temperature for at least 20 years
Observed
(°C)
Most recent
higher
Average for
December
Darwin Airport 27.1 27.3 in 1985 25.3
Victoria River Downs 26.8 26.9 in 1985 25.1
Yuendumu 24.2 24.6 in 1985* 21.5
Centre Island 28.5 28.8 in 1990 27.3
Borroloola Airport 26.2 26.7 in 1995 25.2
McArthur River Mine Airport 26.8 27.4 in 1990* 25.0

* note: there are gaps in the historical record at this site, so it is possible a higher value has gone unreported




Record highest December mean temperature
New record
(°C)
Old
record
Years of
record
Average for
December
Alice Springs Airport 30.3 29.7 in 1985 77 27.8
Darwin Airport 30.5 = 30.5 in 1985 77 29.0
Tennant Creek Airport 34.7 33.3 in 1979 49 31.0
Daly Waters Airstrip 32.9 32.8 in 2002 48 30.7
Jabiru Airport 31.4 31.3 in 2012 41 30.0
Gove Airport 30.3 30.2 in 1990 39 28.8
Elliott 34.3 33.4 in 1986 37 31.4
Lajamanu Airport 34.9 33.1 in 1972 26 31.2
Territory Grape Farm 31.9 30.1 in 2012 26 28.7
Borroloola Airport 32.6 31.9 in 2005 24 30.8
Channel Point 29.8 29.7 in 2014 24 28.7
Batchelor Airport 30.3 30.1 in 2002 22 29.0
Rabbit Flat 35.0 32.6 in 2004 22 31.1
Bradshaw 33.2 32.5 in 2002 20 31.0
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 30.4 30.2 in 2014 20 29.3

Highest December mean temperature for at least 20 years
Observed
(°C)
Most recent
higher
Average for
December
Victoria River Downs 34.1 34.2 in 1972* 31.4
Tindal RAAF 31.7 31.8 in 1986* 30.2
Centre Island 32.2 32.8 in 1990 31.0
McArthur River Mine Airport 33.6 34.0 in 1990* 31.3

* note: there are gaps in the historical record at this site, so it is possible a higher value has gone unreported




Summary statistics for December 2018
Maximum temperatures
(°C)
Minimum temperatures
(°C)
Rainfall
(millimetres)
Mean for
December
2018
Diff
from
average
Highest for
December
2018
Mean for
December
2018
Diff
from
average
Lowest for
December
2018
Total for
December
2018
Average
for
December
Rank of
December
2018
Fraction of
December
average
Darwin-Daly (district 14GA)
Batchelor Airport 35.5 +1.7 37.7 23rd 25.0 +0.9 21.6 13th 87.2 267.5 v low 33%
Central Arnhem Plateau 34.6 +1.5 37.7 6th 24.0 +0.5 19.9 8th 142.4 243.5 low 58%
Channel Point 33.1 +0.8 34.5 7th 26.6 +1.6 22.2 13th 144.1 323.8 low 45%
Charles Point 32.7   33.6 27th 27.4   22.4 13th 70.2
Croker Island Airport 32.8   34.8 25th 26.9   22.2 8th 168.8
Darwin Airport 34.0 +1.3 35.5 25th 27.1 +1.8 22.5 13th 69.2 251.1 v low 28%
Delamere Weapons Range 39.0 +3.2 42.4 11th 25.7 +1.1 21.2 17th 147.4 172.9 average 85%
Douglas River Research Farm 36.5 +1.5 38.4 2nd 24.9 +1.1 21.1 13th 113.2 213.1 low 53%
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 33.7 +1.2 35.5 27th 27.2 +1.1 22.6 31st 119.4 294.8 low 41%
Jabiru Airport 36.9 +1.8 38.8 6th 25.9 +0.9 22.2 13th 169.6 225.6 average 75%
Kangaroo Flats (Defence)     37.2 2nd 25.9   22.0 13th 51.0
McCluer Island 32.7 +0.6 34.9 10th 27.5 +0.4 22.4 12th 120.4 192.9 low 62%
Middle Point 36.3 +1.4 38.2 6th 24.7 +0.5 22.5 31st 123.2 235.3 low 52%
Mount Bundey North (Defence) 35.8   37.7 6th 24.9   21.3 7th 199.6
Mount Bundey South (Defence) 36.3   38.7 6th 25.0   21.8 10th 279.6
Murganella Airstrip 35.2   38.8 6th 24.7   22.1 1st 182.6
Noonamah Airstrip 35.3   37.0 25th 26.0   22.9 13th 81.2
Pirlangimpi Airport 33.6 +0.8 35.3 5th 26.4 +1.7 22.6 24th 117.4 345.9 v low 34%
Point Fawcett 33.1 +0.6 34.1 23rd 27.2 +1.6 22.7 13th 169.2 297.6 low 57%
Point Stuart 35.3   36.9 10th 25.8   23.1 28th 143.6 217.6 average 66%
Port Keats Airport 34.9 +1.4 37.5 6th 26.6 +1.2 21.3 14th 115.6 206.1 average 56%
Tindal RAAF 37.8 +2.2 40.1 5th 25.6 +0.8 21.4 30th 81.6 211.2 low 39%
Arnhem (district 14BC)
Cape Wessel 34.8   37.5 5th 27.0   22.2 31st 232.4 132.0 high 176%
Gove Airport 34.5 +1.5 38.7 4th 26.2 +1.6 22.3 31st 132.4 177.9 average 74%
Groote Eylandt Airport 35.8 +1.5 40.7 6th 26.3 +1.3 22.6 30th 166.0 184.8 average 90%
Maningrida Airport 34.0 +0.6 37.8 19th 25.4 +0.1 21.2 25th 104.2 156.3 low 67%
Milingimbi Airport 35.2 +1.4 39.2 10th 26.7 +0.7 24.1 29th 146.2 148.6 average 98%
Ngayawili 33.1 +0.3 34.5 7th 27.7 +2.0 22.1 29th 148.2 226.4 average 65%
Warruwi Airport 34.2 +1.0 36.6 11th 26.8 +0.5 22.4 12th 144.2 193.2 average 75%
Roper-Mcarthur (district 14DE)
Borroloola Airport 39.0 +2.6 44.6 5th 26.2 +1.0 23.4 19th 57.2 133.8 low 43%
Bulman 38.1 +1.0 41.8 7th 25.2 +0.4 23.5 31st 276.0 202.2 high 136%
Centre Island 36.0 +1.3 40.2 6th 28.5 +1.2 24.4 14th 153.4 133.4 average 115%
Daly Waters Airstrip 40.7 +3.4 43.4 11th 25.1 +0.9 20.6 6th 34.2 116.1 v low 29%
McArthur River Mine Airport 40.4 +2.7 44.3 5th 26.8 +1.8 23.4 6th 38.0 123.4 low 31%
Ngukurr Airport 39.7   43.1 10th 27.2   24.5 19th 43.6
Victoria (district 14F)
Bradshaw 39.6 +3.1 44.4 6th 26.8 +1.3 23.5 19th 101.6 199.1 low 51%
Bradshaw - Angallari Valley (Defence) 40.1   44.4 6th 26.4   22.5 14th 76.4
Lajamanu Airport 43.3 +5.2 46.2 12th 26.6 +2.4 19.7 25th 5.8 77.6 v low 7%
Victoria River Downs 41.4 +3.7 44.7 11th 26.8 +1.7 19.2 25th 52.6 119.1 low 44%
Barkly (district 15A)
Elliott 42.2 +3.8 45.0 28th 26.4 +2.0 23.2 22nd 20.8 104.0 low 20%
Tennant Creek Airport 41.3 +4.2 44.5 18th 28.0 +3.2 24.4 15th 0.2 74.5 lowest 0%
Alice Springs (district 15B)
Alice Springs Airport 39.0 +3.6 45.6 29th 21.5 +1.2 12.4 15th 2.4 38.2 v low 6%
Arltunga 38.0 +3.5 43.6 19th 20.6 +0.2 9.5 15th 0.6 41.3 low 1%
Curtin Springs 39.2 +2.8 46.9 30th     15.6 24th 35.5 32.4 high 110%
Jervois 40.5 +2.8 46.5 19th 22.7 +1.2 14.5 15th 1.2 39.5 v low 3%
Kulgera 38.2 +3.4 45.5 29th 22.2 +2.0 11.0 14th 9.0 33.4 low 27%
Rabbit Flat 43.7 +5.2 47.1 19th 26.3 +2.6 17.7 25th 8.0 71.6 v low 11%
Territory Grape Farm 40.6 +4.4 45.5 19th 23.2 +2.0 15.4 15th 1.8 56.0 v low 3%
Walungurru Airport 41.4 +3.1 46.3 29th 27.2 +2.5 20.4 3rd 8.8 62.3 low 14%
Yuendumu 39.6 +3.4 44.8 29th 24.2 +2.7 19.5 4th 2.4 47.9 v low 5%
Yulara Airport 39.5 +3.0 46.1 30th 21.9 +1.1 12.5 15th 43.0 45.4 average 95%

Notes

The Monthly climate summary, generally published on the first working day of each month, lists 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. More extensive discussion of significant weather events, along with later information and data that has had greater opportunity for quality control, will be presented in the Monthly Weather Review.

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 11 am on Tuesday 8 January 2019. Some checks have been made on the data, but it is possible that results will change as new information becomes available.

In some situations, some or all of the rainfall is in the form of hail or snow. In these cases the totals given are for the water equivalent: the depth of liquid water that results from melting any frozen precipitation. There can be significant 'undercatch' of snow in strong winds, meaning the true precipitation can be higher than that reported.

Averages for individual sites 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.

Where temperature area averages are mentioned, they are derived from the ACORN-SAT dataset.

Further information

Media
(03) 9669 4057
Enquiries