The Climate Report Card

The Bureau of Meteorology has released its Annual Climate Statement, showing 2018 was slightly warmer than 2017 and rainfall totals were the lowest since 2005.

The temperature numbers show overall, Australia saw its’ third-warmest year since 1910- which is the year from which the Bureau now recognises ‘official’ temperatures following its 2013 decision to ignore 19 th century data as part of official records.

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Rainfall was below average for large areas, affecting central and southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, eastern South Australia, and the South West Land Division in Western Australia with Nationally-averaged rainfall 11% below average for the year at 413 mm (1961–1990 average 465.2 mm).

Bureau senior climatologist Dr Lynette Bettio says under the current record keeping system Australia’s average temperature in 2018 was 1.14 °C above the 1961–1990 average, making it slightly warmer than 2017.

“The only part of the country to buck the trend for above average temperatures was the Kimberley region, which had cooler than average nights for the year.”

Nationally, Australia’s 2018 rainfall total was 11% below the 1961–1990 average, but many areas were significantly below average.

“Large areas of south eastern Australia experienced rainfall totals in the lowest 10 per cent on record, which exacerbated the severe drought conditions. New South Wales had its sixth driest year on record, while the Murray-Darling Basin saw its seventh-driest year on record. Australia’s September rainfall was also the lowest on record.”

“We did see some respite in the final three months of the year with decent rainfall in the east of the country, particularly in New South Wales in October and November and parts of Queensland in October and December.”

“We did see some parts of northern Australia receive above-average rainfall in 2018, particularly in Western Australia, as did that state’s southeast.”

Significant weather events to impact Australia in 2018:

  • Tropical cyclones Joyce, Kelvin, Nora and Marcus brought significant wind, rainfall and flooding to parts of Australia’s north in January, February and March. Broome broke its annual rainfall record only two months into the year. TC Marcus was the strongest cyclone to affect Darwin since Tracy in December 1974.
  • Hot, dry and windy conditions led to severe bushfire conditions in southwest Victoria and the south coast of New South Wales in March.
  • Tasmania was impacted by a complex low-pressure system in May. This brought exceptional rainfall totals, with many sites recording record May daily rainfall totals, and significant flash flooding in and around Hobart.
  • Warm and dry conditions in August and September saw an early start to the bushfire season, with between 80 and 100 active bushfires across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
  • Severe thunderstorms affected Queensland in October, including two observed tornadoes at Coolabunia and Tansey.
  • A prolonged heatwave in Queensland from late November into early December saw temperatures above 40 °C for much of the state. Many locations broke November temperature records. The conditions also led to extreme bushfire conditions across much of Queensland.
  • Significant thunderstorms affected eastern New South Wales in December with many areas including Sydney impacted by giant hail.
  • Exceptionally high temperatures affected large areas of Australia in late December.
  • Rainfall above average for north western to south eastern Western Australia, and scattered areas elsewhere in northern Australia.