Australia in summer 2021–22

In brief

  • Summer rainfall close to average for Australia as a whole
  • Rainfall above average along the east coast from the Wide Bay and Burnett District in Queensland to East Gippsland in Victoria; large parts of inland New South Wales; the Eyre Peninsula, much of pastoral South Australia, and central Australia; and pockets of the northern coastline in the Kimberley, Top End, and western Cape York Peninsula
  • Persistent heavy rainfall over the last week of February resulted in significant and widespread flooding in south-east Queensland and parts of New South Wales
  • Rainfall for summer was below average for the South West Land Division and southern Western Australia, south-east South Australia and western Victoria, central southern Victoria, nearly all of Tasmania, across the base of the Top End in the Northern Territory, and much of northern and central Queensland south of Cape York Peninsula
  • The national mean temperature for summer was 0.73 °C above the 1961–1990 average
  • Both daytime and night-time temperatures were above to very much above average for much of Australia
  • However, maxima were cooler than average for much of western and central South Australia, the eastern half of New South Wales, and adjacent inland southern Queensland, with minima cooler than average for an area of the south-west Northern Territory and adjacent border regions of Western Australia

Temperatures

The national mean temperature for spring was 0.73 °C above the 1961–1990 average for Australia as a whole. The mean maximum temperature was 0.90 °C above average, and the mean minimum temperature was 0.57 °C above average.

Maximum temperatures were above to very much above average for most of Western Australia and northern Australia, far south-eastern South Australia, far south-west New South Wales, most of Victoria except the north-east and East Gippsland, and for all of Tasmania. Days were cooler than average for much of western and central South Australia, the eastern half of New South Wales, and adjacent inland southern Queensland.

Minimum temperatures were above to very much above average for most of Western Australia, much of northern Australia, the remainder of the western half of Queensland, the western half of New South Wales and along most of the coast, eastern border regions of South Australia, and all of Victoria and Tasmania. Minimum temperatures were cooler than average for an area of the south-west Northern Territory and adjacent border regions of Western Australia.

Both days and nights were generally warmer than average through each of the three summer months. However, very heavy rain brought cooler than average days to much of pastoral South Australia during January, and across much of central Australia, pastoral South Australia, much of New South Wales and adjacent eastern Victoria and southern Queensland in February. Nights were warmest on record in parts of the south-east in January, and cooler than average in pastoral South Australia, central Australia, central, northern, and north-eastern New South Wales, and southern Queensland during February.

Heat was persistent in the north and west throughout the season. Some areas of along the west coast of Western Australia had their warmest mean maximum temperature on record for summer.

Warm sea surface temperature anomalies to the west and north-west of Western Australia, and a ridge of high pressure south of the Great Australian Bight (associated with positive SAM (Southern Annular Mode) across most of summer), played an important role in this summer heat. The presence of warm sea surface temperature anomalies around the coast decreased the temperature contrast between land and ocean; this contrast is necessary to drive sea breezes. The location of the SAM pressure maximum was further west than is typical, and favoured a predominantly easterly wind pattern over Western Australia. This easterly wind regime also worked against formation of cooling sea breezes along the coast.

In each individual month of summer, many sites set records for their highest daily maximum temperature for that month, and at some sites, the highest temperature for any time of the year. Most of the records were set across Western Australia, but some were set elsewhere, mostly in Queensland. Station records were also set during summer for either the highest count of very warm days, or for longest run of consecutive days above a temperature threshold (persistent warmth), with the majority of these records set along the west coast of Australia, but some also set in south-west to central southern Victoria and far south-east South Australia during January, and a few scattered across Queensland and the north throughout the season.

Some examples include:

  • Marble Bar recorded a total of 16 days with maximum temperatures at 45 °C or above in December, the highest count for December on record and the second-highest count for any month.
  • Between 18 and 23 January Perth Metro had 6 consecutive days reaching at least 40 °C, the longest run for any month in 123 years of combined observations (from the official Perth records).

Summer also saw temperatures in the Pilbara equal the highest temperature observed in Australia when Onslow Airport recorded a maximum temperature of 50.7 °C on 13 January due to a very hot airmass over Western Australia, and strong offshore winds blocking the usual arrival of cooler sea breezes.

Further discussion and tables of records for each state and the Northern Territory can be found in the individual regional climate summaries, to be released on Thursday 3 February 2022.

For discussion of events throughout the season, see the individual monthly climate summaries for Australia for December, January, and February.

3-month temperature table ending February 2022
Areal average temperatures
  Maximum Temperature Minimum Temperature Mean Temperature
  Rank
(of 112)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 112)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment Rank
(of 112)
Anomaly
(°C)
Comment
Australia 101 +0.90   = 88 +0.57   = 96 +0.73  
Queensland = 86 +0.81   = 87 +0.59   = 89 +0.70  
New South Wales 58 +0.17   86 +0.81   = 78 +0.49  
Victoria 84 +0.85   107 +1.55 6th highest 102 +1.20  
Tasmania 107 +1.70 6th highest 103 +0.92 10th highest 108 +1.31 5th highest
South Australia = 60 −0.04   = 71 +0.36   69 +0.17  
Western Australia 105 +1.63 8th highest 101 +0.60   106 +1.12 7th highest
Northern Territory 97 +0.76   = 73 +0.28   92 +0.52  

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 112 (highest). A rank marked with ’=‘ indicates the value is tied for that rank. Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961–1990) average.

Rainfall

Summer rainfall close to average for Australia as a whole. However the national figure disguises significant regional, and month-to-month, differences.

Rainfall was above average along the east coast of Australia from the Wide Bay and Burnett District in Queensland to East Gippsland in Victoria, extending inland in south-eastern and central New South Wales; also above average for the Eyre Peninsula and much of pastoral South Australia, the southern half of the Northern Territory, far north-west New South Wales, south-west Queensland; and for pockets of the northern coastline in the Kimberley, Top End, and western Cape York Peninsula.

A large number of sites along the east coast from Bundaberg in Queensland to eastern Victoria had their highest total summer rainfall on record, as did a few sites in South Australia on the Eyre Peninsula. A large number of daily rainfall records, for individual months or for summer as a whole, were also set in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales.

However, rainfall for summer was below average for much of the remainder of southern Australia, and particularly west-facing coastlines. While La Niña contributed to a wetter than average season for parts of eastern Australia, persistent high pressure, and weaker than average westerly winds across latitudes immediately to Australia's south, contributed to the drier than average season for Tasmania and parts of the southern coastline.

Rainfall was below or very much below average for the South West Land Division and southern Western Australia, south-east South Australia and western Victoria, central southern Victoria, and nearly all of Tasmania. For parts of south-western Tasmania rainfall was the lowest on record for summer. For Tasmania as a whole, summer 2021–22 was the third-driest summer on record. Rainfall for the season was also below average across the base of the Top End in the Northern Territory, and much of northern and central Queensland south of Cape York Peninsula.

December rainfall was very much drier than average across much of the southern coastline and Tasmania, January was drier than average for the south-west of Tasmania and much of the west of Western Australia, and February was drier than average for south-east Australia and much of the northern tropics.

A tropical low in late December contributed to a wetter than average month for the Top End, while January was wetter or very much wetter than average for most of the mainland south-east and Tasmania, central Australia, and the Kimberley in Western Australia. February was wetter than average for much of central Australia and along parts of the east coast.

During the second half of January, a complex low system associated with the remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Tiffany brought heavy rain to central Australia and parts of pastoral and southern South Australia, including daily rainfall records at a number of sites across the Eyre Peninsula and Yorke Peninsula. Flooding results across broad areas, and caused extensive damage to transport infrastructure in areas of outback South Australia.

Persistent heavy rainfall over the last week of February resulted in significant and widespread flooding in south-east Queensland and parts of New South Wales, with a number of lives lost and extensive damage to properties. A Special Climate Statement discussing this event, including details of flooding and rainfall records set, will be produced following the conclusion of the event. 

Further discussion and tables of records for each state and the Northern Territory can be found in the individual regional climate summaries, to be released on Thursday 3 February 2022.

For discussion of events throughout the season, see the individual monthly climate summaries for Australia for December, January, and February.

3-month rainfall table ending February 2022
Area-average rainfall
  Rank
(of 122)
Average
(mm)
Departure
from mean
Comment
Australia 64 211.0 +1%  
Queensland 56 305.5 −6%  
New South Wales 103 218.4 +31%  
Victoria 71 124.6 +5%  
Tasmania 4 137.6 −43% 4th lowest (record 87.7 mm in 1961)
South Australia 106 93.0 +56%  
Western Australia 68 145.5 −2%  
Northern Territory 63 314.2 −1%  
Murray-Darling Basin 87 160.8 +14%  

Rank ranges from 1 (lowest) to 122 (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.

Australian weather extremes in summer 2021–22
Hottest day 50.7°C at Onslow Airport (WA) on the 13th January
Coldest day 2.6°C at Thredbo AWS (NSW) on the 10th December
Coldest night −3.7°C at Perisher Valley AWS (NSW) on the 6th December
Warmest night 34.6°C at Marble Bar (WA) on the 13th January
Wettest day 701.8 mm at Rosebank (Upper Coopers Creek) (NSW) on the 28th February

Climate