Warm winter a precursor to spring scorcher

Unseasonable heat across Australia this winter has resulted in all but one capital experiencing temperatures ranking in the top three warmest on record.

The greatest deviations were observed through inland Queensland where winter temperatures were as much as 3°C above the long-term average – a substantial figure when averaged across an entire season.

The main source of this winter’s warmth was the ever-increasing background influence of climate change along with the absence of cold fronts pushing across south-eastern states.

The lack of these fronts allowed sub-tropical air from the north to lie stagnant over central and eastern Australia for extended periods and culminated in near record-high temperatures close to the southern coast this week.

Atmospheric and oceanic patterns surrounding Australia heavily favour a continuation of well above normal temperatures for the remainder of the year.

Winter 2023 breaks records

Hobart and Adelaide registered their warmest winter on record based off the mean temperature (average of all minimums and maximums) with data extending well back into the 1800s.

2023 Winter Temperature for Australia’s Capitals

Mean = average of minimums & maximums

City2023 MeanLong-term AverageRecord2023 RankSite Opened
Adelaide13.1°C11.86°C12.9°C (2009)1st1887
Brisbane17.6°C15.82°C17.7°C (2019)2nd1887
Canberra7.8°C6.5°C8.0°C (2013)2nd1939
Hobart10.6°C8.7°C10.1°C (1988)1st1882
Melbourne12.1°C10.4°C12.2°C (2005/2013)equal 3rd1855
Perth13.6°C13.7°C15.3°C (1983)67th1897
Sydney14.7°C13.0°C15.0°C (2013)2nd1859
Darwin26.7°C25.4°C26.9°C (1998)equal 3rd1941

Hobart’s old record was obliterated and the city’s regular winter background, a snow-capped Mount Wellington, was noticeably absent through most of the season.

The mean temperature this winter of 10.6 degrees was 2°C above average and half a degree above the previous record from 1988.

Adelaide just edged out its previous record from 2009 by 0.2°C, recording a mean winter temperature above 13°C for the first time.

Both Brisbane and Melbourne came within 0.1°C of a new record for mean temperatures, however Brisbane’s maximums of 23.5°C and Melbourne’s minimums of 8.8°C were more than 2°C above average and the highest on record.

Sydney and Canberra’s winter warmth was second only to the records from 2013.

Daytime temperatures in Sydney were particularly high at 19.5°C – 2.5°C above the long-term average.

The only capital where winter was cooler than average was Perth.

Snow season one of the worst on record

barren snow field at Perisher Ski Centre from late August
Perisher Ski Centre in late August when snow depth normally reaches a peak. (Supplied: SMSkier)

The absence of prolonged cold weather led to a disappointing winter for the alps, where the lack of snow caused resorts to operate at limited capacity, and even forced some to close in the middle of peak season.

Lower elevations suffered through a near snowless winter where rain became the dominant precipitation and a snow pack failed to develop.

The deepest snow depth at Three Mile Dam near Selwyn Snowfields as measured by Snowy Hydro was just 13.5 centimetres, the lowest in 50 years.

Mount Buller in Victoria
Many alpine slopes were bare of snow during August.

Deep Creek, another Snowy Hydro site, has not had any measurable snow lying on the ground for the past three weeks, a record for August with data back to the late 1950s.

Higher slopes fared slightly better, but still suffered from near record low snowfalls and frequent rain.

Spencers Creek and Mount Hotham recorded their lowest peak snow depths since 2006.

Dry winter for east coast

Rainfall was variable across Australia this winter; it was wet across the north and interior and drier than normal near the east coast.

Sydney was particularly dry, receiving just above 100 millimetres, well below the city’s winter average of 311mm and the driest in 21 years.

Melbourne’s total was just below 100mm and the lowest in 12 years.

Brisbane, Canberra and Hobart also received well below average rain this winter.

2023 Winter Rain for Australia’s Capitals

To 8pm 30 August

City2023Long-term Average
Adelaide210mm205mmDriest in 3 years
Brisbane72mm163mmDriest in 4 years
Canberra69mm129mmDriest in 4 years
Hobart111mm160mmDriest in 6 years
Melbourne96mm146mmDriest in 12 years
Perth424mm470mmWettest in 4 years
Sydney114mm311mmDriest in 21 years
Darwin0mm8mmDriest in 5 years

Spring scorcher close to sure thing

The dice are heavily loaded in favour of a continuation of well above average temperatures this spring, and for most of Australia below average rainfall.

The confidence level of a warm spring is high and it would be no surprise if it ranks as one of the warmest on record.

This bold prediction is due to numerous climate drivers occurring concurrently:

  • climate change ensures nearly all seasons are warmer than normal
  • a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) has developed
  • El Niño is forming.

The likely prevalence of a positive IOD and El Niño also favour below average rainfall for most of Australia this spring, particularly across the interior and the southern coastline.

The only region which the Bureau of Meteorology forecast to have a greater than 50 per cent chance above median rain is a small pocket of the New South Wales coast near Port Macquarie.

2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
ABC Content Disclaimer

- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -