Australia in summer 2019–20

In Brief

  • Australia's second-warmest summer on record
  • Amongst the ten warmest summers on record for the Northern Territory and all States except Victoria and Tasmania
  • Mean maximum and minimum temperatures warmer than average for summer over nearly all of Australia, and very much above average for most of Australia
  • Rainfall below average for Australia overall, particularly western New South Wales, southwestern Queensland, and the Top End; but above average for parts of inland and west coast Western Australia, and parts of the east coast

Temperatures

It was Australia's second-warmest summer on record, with all three of the mean, maximum, and minimum temperatures the second-warmest on record for the season, each coming in behind the record set last year (summer 2018–19). The national mean temperature for summer was 1.88 °C warmer than average. The mean maximum temperature was 2.11 °C warmer than average, and the mean minimum temperature was 1.64 °C warmer than average.

The mean temperature for summer was the second-warmest on record for Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, the fourth-warmest on record for New South Wales, and the sixth-warmest on record for South Australia.

The mean maximum temperature for the month was above or very much above average across nearly all of Australia. Maxima for the season were amongst the warmest 10% of historical observations (decile 10) for nearly all of Queensland and the Northern Territory; much of Western Australia except the northern interior and parts of the western and northwestern coast; western and northern South Australia; and most of northern and central to eastern New South Wales.

The first days of December saw a cool spell with record low summer daily maximum temperature at a handfull of stations in Victoria, Tasmania, and elevated locations in New South Wales. A few stations in Tasmania and New South Wales also observed record low minimum temperatures for summer.

Significant heat affected large parts of central and southern Australia from 12 December as a slow-moving high over the Great Australian Bight allowed heat to build over the continent, with temperatures remaining elevated into the New Year period. Temperatures in the mid to high 40s were observed across large areas, in cases for several consecutive days. A number of stations set records for their warmest summer day in late December to early January in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, and South Australia, as did a few stations in Western Australia. Some stations also observed a record warm night for summer in South Australia and Western Australia.

On two consecutive days, the 17th and 18th of December, records were set for Australia's hottest day on record. The national area-averaged maximum temperature on the 18th was 41.9 °C, a whole degree higher than the value for the 17th (40.9 °C). Both days exceed the previous record of 40.30 °C set on 7 January 2013.

A cool change which ended the warm spell also resulted in some stations in South Australia observing record cool days for summer on 5 January.

The strong northerlies which had driven these high temperatures over the New Year period also saw a significant increase in fire activity over eastern Australia. Widespread areas of thick smoke with poor air quality affected large areas, including both Sydney and Melbourne, at times over the summer and particularly in January.

A very hot airmass brought another period of very high temperatures across southern Australia at the end of January, with some record warm summer days in New South Wales.

Some stations also observed record warm nights for summer in New South Wales in late December or late January, in Victoria and New South Wales in the first days of February, and in Queensland scattered across the season.

Some stations in Western Australia and Queensland observed either their warmest summer mean maximum or summer mean minimum temperature, or warmest summer overall, while some in New South Wales observed their warmest summer mean minimum temperatures.


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 +2.11 2nd highest (record +2.60 °C in 2019) 109 +1.64 2nd highest (record +1.67 °C in 2019) 109 +1.88 2nd highest (record +2.14 °C in 2019)
Queensland 109 +2.33 2nd highest (record +2.40 °C in 2006) 109 +1.97 2nd highest (record +2.08 °C in 2006) 109 +2.16 2nd highest (record +2.24 °C in 2006)
New South Wales 105 +2.39 6th highest 107 +2.28 4th highest (record +3.21 °C in 2019) 107 +2.33 4th highest (record +3.41 °C in 2019)
Victoria 90 +1.04 92 +1.10 94 +1.07
Tasmania = 67 +0.27 81 +0.32 77 +0.29
South Australia 107 +2.05 4th highest (record +3.09 °C in 2019) 92 +1.02 105 +1.54 6th highest
Western Australia 106 +1.91 5th highest 110 +1.38 highest (was +0.95 °C in 2010 and 1973) 109 +1.65 2nd highest (record +1.72 °C in 2019)
Northern Territory 109 +2.36 2nd highest (record +3.25 °C in 2019) 109 +1.94 2nd highest (record +2.08 °C in 2019) 109 +2.15 2nd highest (record +2.67 °C in 2019)

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 summer was below average for Australia as a whole, although the season contained marked contrasts across the country geographically and in the transition from a vey dry start to a wetter finish.

December was record dry with rainfall below average for the majority of Australia, while rainfall during January was mixed, and February was much wetter than average for parts of the east coast, the Gulf Country, and Western Australia.

While recent heavy rainfall has eased dry conditions in the far east, further inland drought persists. Additionally, the amount of rainfall required for recovery from long-term rainfall deficiencies is substantial. In many areas several months of above-average rainfall would be required to have a lasting effect on accumulated rainfall deficiencies.

Rainfall for the season was below to very much below average far a large area spanning western New South Wales, far southwest Queensland, northeastern South Australia, and border regions of the southwest of the Northern Territory. Rainfall was also below average for the Top End of the Northern Territory; areas of the Kimberley, northwest, and south coast of Western Australia; areas of Queensland's northern tropics; pockets of southeast New South Wales and eastern Victoria; and areas of the eastern half of Tasmania.

Conversely, summer rainfall was above average for parts of coastal New South Wales and southeastern Queensland; areas of central Victoria and West and South Gippsland, areas of South Australia around the top of Spencer Gulf, and an area of the northeastern Northern Territory extending inland from the southern Gulf of Carpentaria coast. Rainfall was also above average for large areas of Western Australia extending from the central Pilbara coast through the interior, and from the north of the South West Land Division into the Goldfields.

Moderate to heavy rainfall affected the east coast of Australia during the first half of February, with widespread showers and rain stretching inland to the Great Dividing Range. Rainfall was particularly heavy around Sydney through to the Blue Mountains, along the Illawarra coast, and in northeast New South Wales and southeast Queensland. Significant impacts have been reported, including both riverine and flash flooding.

A large number of stations in New South Wales observed their highest daily rainfall total for summer between the 7th and 10th of February, and a few stations went on to observe their wettest summer on record.

A couple of stations in Western Australia also observed a record wet day for summer on 10 February.


Area-average rainfall
Rank
(of 120)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 38 181.3 −13%
Queensland 32 274.1 −16%
New South Wales 62 150.2 −12%
Victoria 54 111.9 −6%
Tasmania 40 218.0 −10%
South Australia 49 43.3 −30%
Western Australia 77 155.5 +4%
Northern Territory 33 241.5 −24%
Murray-Darling Basin 57 122.1 −16%

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 in summer 2019–20
Hottest day 49.9 °C    at Nullarbor (SA) on 19 December
Coldest day −1.0 °C    at Thredbo AWS (NSW) on 2 December
Coldest night −4.3 °C    at Thredbo AWS and Perisher Valley AWS (NSW) on 4 February
Warmest night 36.0 °C    at Walungurru Airport (NT) on 26 December
Wettest day 562.0 mm at Dum In Mirrie Airstrip (NT) on 11 January


Notes

The Seasonal 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 month.

Climate Summaries are usually published on the first working day of each month.

This statement has been prepared based on information available at 10 am EST on Monday 2 March 2020. 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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