Northern Territory in March 2014: A taste of the dry season in the north

March 2014 saw no monsoon activity in a month that is usually fairly wet across the tropical north. As a result rainfall totals were among the lowest on record for most Top End locations. A lack of cloud cover allowed daytime temperatures to rise, while dry air allowed overnight temperatures to lower.

  • Tropical cyclone Gillian moves across the water to the north, but did not affect the NT coastline
  • Darwin Airport had its second driest March on record

Tropical cyclone Gillian

Tropical cyclone Gillian began as a tropical low over the Arafura Sea on 6 March in the southeastern Arafura Sea, about 330 km northeast of Gove. It remained slow-moving until overnight on 7 March, when it began moving towards far north Queensland, while developing. On 8 March it first reached tropical cyclone strength and was named tropical cyclone Gillian as it continued to track towards the Gulf of Carpentaria and into a favorable atmosphere. Whilst in the Gulf of Carpentaria, it weakened and was downgraded to below tropical cyclone intensity just before it crossed the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula during 10 March. On 11 March the system remained near-stationary for 24 hours before moving southwards over land until the morning of 12 March and then westwards and back over water on 13 March. The system then took a northeasterly path and re-intensified to a category 1 cyclone on 14 March. Gillian then tracked northwards over the central Gulf of Carpentaria with no immediate threat to the Gulf coast, however, again the system encountered unfavorable atmospheric conditions and was downgraded once more to below tropical cyclone intensity on 15 March. Ex-tropical cyclone Gillian then moved steadily northwest across the Arafura Sea until colliding with Timor on 18 March. Just below tropical cyclone strength, the tropical low crossed East Timor on the 18th and followed along the southern Flores Sea and the Lesser Sunda Islands on 19 to 20 March. The low shifted south over Bali on 20 March but continued to track west over the Indian Ocean. On 21 March, the low intensified again to a category 1 system and was again at tropical cyclone status. Shortly after passing near Christmas Island on 22 March, tropical cyclone Gillian turned south and strengthened further. The storm reached a maximum strength on 24 March with mean winds of about 198 km/h (category 5) while over the Indian Ocean. Tropical cyclone Gillian then weakened and dissipated on 26 March while moving west away from Australia.

Very dry March for the NT

The Northern Territory as a whole saw the driest March since 2009 with only 54.3 % of normal March rainfall. Many locations in the Alice Springs District did not measure any rainfall this month. Several sites, including Adelaide River, Palmerston (Yarrawonga) and Yulara had their lowest total March rainfall on record. Darwin Airport, with only 92.2 mm, had its driest March in 36 years and the second driest March on record. Alice Springs Airport received only 1.4 mm of rainfall, compared to the long-term average is 31.8 mm.

Not everywhere was dry. Several coastal locations had a few large rainfall events in the month. The wettest single day was at Cape Wessel with 206.0 mm on the 8th as pre-tropical cyclone Gillian moved toward the Gulf of Carpentaria. Cape Wessel ended the month with 365.6 mm, making it the wettest location in the NT for March 2014 and the only station in the Arnhem region to see above average rainfall. A few showers and storms moved across the Victoria River and the Barkly Districts within the first few days of the month such that some places, including Bradshaw Homestead, Kidman Springs and Brunette Downs ended the month near, or slightly above average for March.

Average to above average maxima for the NT

Most of the Northern Territory experienced close to average daytime temperatures for March. The mean daily maximum temperature for the Territory was 34.7 °C, 0.9 °C above average. Elliot was the only location to have a cooler than normal month with a mean daily maximum temperature of 34.7 °C, 1 °C below average. The Alice Springs District had several hot days near the middle of the month (the hottest day in the NT was at Alice Springs Airport with 40.9 °C on the 15th) but the beginning and end of the month were near normal across the south of the NT.

Temperatures across the Top End of the NT were generally warmer than normal. This was due to a lack of persistent cloud cover and rainfall in what is usually a rainy month. The warmest days on average were at Bradshaw with 37.3 °C and there were several high temperature records set along the north coast. Channel Point, Point Fawcett and Dum-In-Mirrie were among the sites to see their highest March temperature on record while Mango Farm and Middle Point had their highest March mean daily maximum temperature on record.

Minimum temperature

The Territory as a whole had a mean daily minimum temperature of 21.4 °C, 0.3 °C below average. Portions of the Victoria River District and the northern Alice Springs District saw mean daily minimum temperers that were slightly lower than normal while along the southern border minimum temperatures were, generally, warmer than normal.

A few days with low humidity allowed the overnight temperatures across the tropical north to be the lowest on record on the 27th and 28th. Many locations experienced minimum temperatures similar to the dry season, these include: Daly Waters with 11.4 °C on the 27th, Tindal RAAF with 14.5 °C on the 27th, Batchelor with 15.5 °C on the 28th and Jabiru with 19.5 °C on the 27th.

Darwin and surrounding region

March 2014 was a dry month for most of the Darwin region. Darwin Airport ended the month with only 92.2 mm for the month—this is the second lowest March rainfall on record with the lowest being 88.0 mm in March 1978. The Chase, in Palmerston, also had the second–driest March on record with only 68.2 mm. Further inland, Middle Point ended the month with only 94.6 mm–also ranking it as the second driest March on record with the record of 69.8 mm occurring in 2010. Leanyer set a new record for the driest March on record with 83.4 mm (previous record was 99.6 mm in March 2003) as did Channel Point with 82.7 mm (previous record was 108.8 in March 2009).

Both maximum and minimum temperatures were near average for most of the Darwin Region. A lack of cloud cover in a typically rainy month caused monthly maximum temperatures to be generally higher than normal, while dry air allowed overnight minimums to drop to near or a slightly below normal. Darwin Airport hada mean daily maximum temperature of 33.0 °C, 1.1 °C above average. The mean daily minimum temperature at Darwin Airport was 24.7 °C, 0.2 °C above average.

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Extremes in March 2014
Hottest day 40.9 °C at Alice Springs Airport on the 15th
Warmest days on average 37.3 °C at Bradshaw
Coolest days on average 31.5 °C at Gove Airport
Coldest day 25.9 °C at Arltunga on the 25th
Coldest night 7.3 °C at Arltunga on the 27th
Coolest nights on average 17.5 °C at Alice Springs Airport
Warmest nights on average 26.8 °C at Cape Don
Warmest night 28.8 °C at Dum In Mirrie Airstrip on the 22nd
Warmest on average overall 30.4 °C at Bradshaw
Coolest on average overall 25.5 °C at Arltunga
Wettest overall 365.6 mm at Cape Wessel
Wettest day 206.0 mm at Cape Wessel on the 8th
Highest wind gust 76 km/h at Walungurru Airport on the 18th

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 2014 (mm)
Previous wettest
for March
Years of
record
Gorrie 150.0 on the 3rd 114.8 on the 23rd in 2001 29
Cape Wessel 206.0 on the 8th 120.0 on the 11th in 1997 22



Highest total March rainfall for at least 10 years
Total rainfall
for March 2014 (mm)
Most recent March
at least this wet
Years since
wetter
Average for
March
Cape Wessel 365.6 459.4 in 1995* 15 209.0
Port Keats Airport 304.2 413.2 in 2004 10 205.6

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




Record lowest total March rainfall
Total rainfall
for March 2014 (mm)
Previous driest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Curtin Springs 0.0 = 0.0 in 2005 61 28.7
Adelaide River Post Office 20.0 58.0 in 1987 51 261.1
Darwin River Dam 49.0 86.8 in 2010 44 291.3
Kulgera 0.0 = 0.0 in 2005 42 30.7
Palmerston (Yarrawonga) 75.0 85.5 in 1987 26 308.4
The Granites 0.0 = 0.0 in 1994 25 48.1
Channel Point 82.7 108.8 in 2009 24 353.1
Leanyer 83.4 99.6 in 2003 24 340.7
Yulara Airport 0.0 = 0.0 in 2002 24 36.8
Walker Creek 78.5 87.9 in 2010 18 331.8
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 117.2 166.4 in 2002 17 323.5
Ngayawili 46.6 82.0 in 2002 15 284.0
Nitmiluk Rangers 19.2 44.9 in 2009 15 204.0
Nitmiluk Ridge 30.6 38.8 in 2010 12 182.8
Yeuralba Ridge 32.8 46.4 in 2009 12 201.3
Central Arnhem Plateau 5.4 26.0 in 2009 11 270.7
Edith Farms Road 22.8 35.2 in 2009 11 247.2
Snowdrop Creek 42.0 43.0 in 2009 11 222.8
Majestic Orchids 68.0 71.4 in 2009 10 320.3
Maningrida Airport 111.8 138.2 in 2009 10 326.5

Lowest total March rainfall for at least 10 years
Total rainfall
for March 2014 (mm)
Most recent March
at least this dry
Years since
drier
Average for
March
Darwin Botanic Gardens 83.4 73.0 in 1887* 57 313.6
Darwin Airport 92.2 88.0 in 1978 36 319.0
Lambell's Lagoon 81.8 44.6 in 1987 27 270.5
McMinns Lagoon 102.6 93.0 in 1992* 21 339.7
Wagait Beach 108.1 98.8 in 1992* 20 353.1
Nightcliff Pool 81.8 77.6 in 1978* 19 261.9
Stokes Hill 88.0 5.2 in 1978* 17 303.4
Elizabeth Downs 79.9 73.0 in 1992* 15 260.7
Shoal Bay 91.8 78.2 in 1993* 15 310.9
Upper Waterhouse River 26.8 9.0 in 1999* 13 223.7
Rabbit Flat 9.8 0.4 in 2002 12 75.4
Groote Eylandt Airport 162.2 125.0 in 2003 11 333.1
Pirlangimpi Airport 236.0 99.0 in 2002* 11 359.0
Adelaide River Town 34.5 27.5 in 2004 10 223.5
CSIRO Berrimah 127.4 116.8 in 2003* 10 327.7
The Chase 68.2 0.6 in 2004 10 287.8
Walungurru Airport 2.6 0.4 in 2003* 10 53.4

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




Record highest March temperature
Highest temperature
in March 2014 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Channel Point 35.0 on the 17th = 35.0 on the 21st in 2010 20 31.8
Point Fawcett 33.7 on the 27th = 33.7 on the 23rd in 2010 17 31.6
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 35.0 on the 19th = 35.0 on the 18th in 2010 16 31.6
Central Arnhem Plateau 36.6 on the 31st 35.9 on the 11th in 2005 11 31.6



Record highest March mean daily maximum temperature
Mean daily maximum
temperature
for March 2014 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Mango Farm 35.6 35.5 in 2010 33 33.9
Middle Point 34.9 34.8 in 2010 12 33.3
Central Arnhem Plateau 34.2 34.1 in 2009 10 31.6

Highest March mean daily maximum temperature for at least 10 years
Mean daily maximum
temperature
for March 2014 (°C)
Most recent March
at least this warm
Years since
warmer
Average for
March
Tindal RAAF 35.8 36.2 in 1988* 23 34.0
Batchelor Airport 34.4 34.6 in 2002 12 32.8
Douglas River 35.2 35.6 in 2002 12 33.7

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




Record lowest March temperature
Lowest temperature
in March 2014 (°C)
Previous coolest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Daly Waters Airstrip 11.4 on the 27th 13.4 on the 31st in 2008 45 22.5
Jabiru Airport 19.5 on the 27th 20.4 on the 8th in 1981 39 24.4
Mango Farm 14.5 on the 28th 17.2 on the 31st in 2002 34 23.6
Tindal RAAF 14.5 on the 27th 15.5 on the 31st in 2002 27 23.1
Lajamanu Airport 12.9 on the 28th 13.9 on the 23rd in 1970 22 22.0
Channel Point 18.4 on the 28th 20.9 on the 31st in 2002 20 24.5
Rabbit Flat 12.3 on the 27th 12.4 on the 26th in 2012 18 21.7
Batchelor Airport 15.5 on the 28th 16.0 on the 19th in 2009 17 23.4
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 20.0 on the 28th 20.8 on the 18th in 2009 16 25.1
Bradshaw 17.2 on the 28th 18.0 on the 26th in 2003 14 24.1
Middle Point 16.4 on the 28th 18.9 on the 19th in 2009 13 23.9
Central Arnhem Plateau 16.8 on the 27th 19.4 on the 19th in 2009 11 22.9



Record highest March mean daily minimum temperature
Mean daily minimum
temperature
for March 2014 (°C)
Previous warmest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
McCluer Island 26.6 = 26.6 in 2004 15 25.8



Record lowest March mean daily minimum temperature
Mean daily minimum
temperature
for March 2014 (°C)
Previous coolest
for March
Years of
record
Average for
March
Middle Point 23.2 = 23.2 in 2009 12 23.9
Central Arnhem Plateau 22.4 = 22.4 in 2012 10 22.9

Lowest March mean daily minimum temperature for at least 10 years
Mean daily minimum
temperature
for March 2014 (°C)
Most recent March
at least this cool
Years since
cooler
Average for
March
Rabbit Flat 19.9 19.1 in 2003 11 21.7



Summary statistics for March 2014
Maximum temperatures
for March
(°C)
Minimum temperatures
for March
(°C)
Rainfall
for March
(millimetres)
Mean for
March
2014
Diff
from
average
Highest for
March
2014
Mean for
March
2014
Diff
from
average
Lowest for
March
2014
Total for
March
2014
Average
for
March
Rank of
March
2014
Fraction of
March
average
Darwin-Daly (district 14GA)
Batchelor Airport 34.4 +1.6 36.0 22nd 22.7 -0.7 15.5 28th 96.8 250.8 average 39%
Black Point 32.1 +0.7 34.0 31st 25.5 0.0 22.9 28th 75.2 244.2 low 31%
Bradshaw 37.3 +2.2 39.8 21st 23.5 -0.6 17.2 28th 150.6 133.1 average 113%
Cape Don 33.6   35.8 22nd 26.8   24.1 7th 69.8 237.9 low 29%
Central Arnhem Plateau 34.2 +2.6 36.6 31st 22.4 -0.5 16.8 27th 5.4 270.7 lowest 2%
Channel Point 32.7 +0.9 35.0 17th 24.5 0.0 18.4 28th 82.7 353.1 lowest 23%
Croker Island Airport 32.1   33.5 23rd 25.4   22.1 10th 89.2
Darwin Airport 33.0 +1.1 35.8 31st 24.7 +0.2 21.5 28th 92.2 319.0 v low 29%
Darwin NTC AWS 32.4   34.8 31st 26.2   22.3 11th
Douglas River 35.2 +1.5 36.7 22nd 22.3 -0.8 12.9 28th 87.4 232.9 low 38%
Dum In Mirrie Airstrip 32.7 +1.1 35.0 19th 24.9 -0.2 20.0 28th 117.2 323.5 lowest 36%
Gunn Point 32.6   35.2 31st 23.1   16.9 28th 105.6
Jabiru Airport 35.2 +1.7 37.2 31st 24.3 -0.1 19.5 27th 189.8 320.3 low 59%
Katherine Country Club 36.0   38.2 30th 22.4   14.9 28th 111.4
Mango Farm 35.6 +1.7 38.3 20th 22.9 -0.7 14.5 28th 127.6 219.2 average 58%
McCluer Island 31.7 +0.8 33.3 22nd 26.6 +0.8 22.8 8th 145.6 231.9 average 63%
Middle Point 34.9 +1.6 36.7 22nd 23.2 -0.7 16.4 28th 94.6 257.7 v low 37%
Murganella Airstrip 33.1   35.2 22nd 23.3   20.2 28th 223.6
Noonamah Airstrip 34.6   36.6 21st 23.8   18.0 28th 151.8
Oenpelli Airport 34.4   36.9 31st 24.6   21.1 27th 130.8
Pirlangimpi Airport 33.3 +1.4 35.1 27th 24.0 -0.1 21.7 28th 236.0 359.0 low 66%
Point Fawcett 32.3 +0.7 33.7 27th 24.2 -0.7 20.5 28th
Point Stuart 32.2   33.7 31st 24.8   20.7 27th 138.6 225.6 low 61%
Port Keats Airport 34.0 +0.8 36.9 18th 23.5 -0.5 18.2 28th 304.2 205.6 high 148%
Tindal RAAF 35.8 +1.8 37.7 21st 22.4 -0.7 14.5 27th 46.4 168.8 low 27%
Arnhem (district 14BC)
Cape Wessel 31.8   33.6 4th 25.8   22.4 9th 365.6 209.0 high 175%
Gove Airport 31.5 +0.3 33.4 13th 23.9 0.0 21.3 20th 231.8 277.6 average 84%
Maningrida Airport 32.6 +0.8 34.9 9th 24.3 -0.2 21.6 27th 111.8 326.5 lowest 34%
Milingimbi Airport 33.0 +1.0 34.3 31st 24.5 -0.2 22.1 13th 152.4 273.7 low 56%
Ngayawili 32.0 +0.5 34.3 30th 24.7 -0.1 22.3 27th 46.6 284.0 lowest 16%
North East Island 32.6   34.6 30th 26.5   23.8 13th 102.8 204.7 average 50%
Warruwi Airport 32.3 +0.9 34.2 21st 25.5 +0.3 23.4 8th 117.0 237.8 low 49%
Roper-Mcarthur (district 14DE)
Borroloola Airport 34.2 +0.8 36.8 31st 22.9 -0.4 16.4 27th 49.6 173.6 average 29%
Bulman 34.9   36.8 21st 22.9   15.9 27th 94.0 271.6 low 35%
Centre Island 33.2 +0.4 35.1 26th 26.6 +0.3 24.3 2nd 74.8 264.2 low 28%
Daly Waters Airstrip 34.5 -0.1 37.0 30th 21.1 -1.4 11.4 27th 115.2 115.6 average 100%
McArthur River Mine Airport 35.8 +0.9 38.1 21st 23.7 +0.3 17.6 27th 115.2 148.2 average 78%
Ngukurr Airport 34.6   37.1 21st 23.6   15.6 27th 176.0
Wollogorang 33.9 -0.5 37.0 31st 23.1 +0.4 20.0 27th 116.7 162.3 average 72%
Victoria (district 14F)
Lajamanu Airport 35.9 +1.4 38.5 20th 21.0 -1.0 12.9 28th 18.8 83.3 average 23%
Timber Creek 36.5 +1.1 38.5 21st 22.6 -1.0 16.0 28th 81.6 159.9 low 51%
Victoria River Downs 35.7 +0.6 38.0 22nd 22.2 -1.0 13.7 28th 64.8 109.5 average 59%
Wave Hill 35.4 +0.1 38.1 30th 21.3 -0.9 13.0 27th 64.6 122.6 average 53%
Barkly (district 15A)
Brunette Downs     38.0 31st 21.9 -0.4 16.0 28th 68.4 56.3 average 121%
Elliott 34.7 -1.0 37.3 20th 22.5 +0.3 15.1 27th 42.0 85.9 average 49%
Tennant Creek Airport 34.3 0.0 37.0 18th 22.9 -0.3 17.3 28th 0.2 56.1 v low 0%
Alice Springs (district 15B)
Alice Springs Airport 34.6 +2.0 40.9 15th 17.5 0.0 9.7 27th 1.4 31.8 average 4%
Arltunga 33.0 +1.4 38.7 15th 18.0 -0.6 7.3 27th 9.0 39.5 average 23%
Curtin Springs 35.8 +2.1 39.7 14th 20.0 +1.6 11.0 27th 0 28.7 lowest 0%
Jervois 35.5 +0.9 40.3 15th 20.7 +1.4 12.7 27th 4.6 32.3 average 14%
Kulgera 34.1 +2.0 38.4 14th 19.1 +1.0 10.6 26th 0 30.7 lowest 0%
Rabbit Flat 36.8 +0.8 39.9 16th 19.9 -1.8 12.3 27th 9.8 75.4 low 13%
Territory Grape Farm 35.1 +1.0 38.9 16th 18.9 -0.7 12.0 27th 1.0 21.1 average 5%
Walungurru Airport 36.7 +0.8 40.5 15th 23.7 -0.3 17.3 29th 2.6 53.4 low 5%
Yuendumu 34.4 +1.0 39.2 16th     12.9 27th 21.6 44.5 average 49%
Yulara Airport 35.9 +1.7 40.1 15th 19.7 +0.6 11.5 27th 0 36.8 lowest 0%

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 6 pm on Tuesday 1 April 2014. 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

Bureau of Meteorology
Phone (03) 9669 4057
Email media@bom.gov.au