Climate of Townsville

The Townsville area has a tropical climate but, due to its geographical location, rainfall is not as high as elsewhere in the tropics.

The winter months are dominated by SE trade winds and mostly fine weather. Further north the coastline runs north/south and the trade winds are lifted to produce rainfall right through the year. However, Townsville lies on a section of coastline that turns east/west, so the lifting effect is not present. As a result, our winter months are dominated by blue skies, warm days and cool nights - although every now and then we can experience a few days of showery weather.

storm cloudThe summer months are hot and humid with "build-up" thunderstorms starting in late October or November. Bursts of monsoon rains from late December through until early April deliver our highest rainfalls, and this is also the season that Tropical Cyclones can threaten the region. The monsoon winds coming down from the northern hemisphere pick up abundant heat and moisture to feed into the monsoon trough, often producing widespread flooding rains over the region.

Tropical Lows can develop within the monsoon trough, and when they form over warm seas, they can develop further into Tropical Cyclones, which can whip up destructive winds and phenomenal seas. A feature of Severe Tropical Cyclones (category three or greater) making landfall is the storm surge that occurs with them - a rising of the sea level which can be devastating if it occurs near high tide. Thankfully, Severe Tropical Cyclones are rare, effecting Townsville on average once every twenty years. Storm surge is even more unlikely - it is estimated that a surge one metre above the high water mark would occur, on average, once in a hundred years.

FloodView from Townsville Met Office - Flood event Jan 1998

The average annual rainfall is 1143mm on an average 91 rain days, most of which falls in the six month "wet season" November to April. Due to the "hit or miss" nature of tropical lows and thunderstorms, there is considerable variation from year to year. On the night of 10 January 1998 Ex Tropical Cyclone Sid dumped 549mm of rain, the highest 24 hour recording at Townsville Airport. Unofficial figures from some suburbs were over 700mm. The year 2000 was our wettest year on record, with 2400mm. This was followed be our second driest year in 2001, when we got just 467mm (driest year was 1969 - 464mm).