The Bureau of Meteorology has just released their Annual Climate Statement for 2017, which confirms what most of us have been thinking – it was an unusually warm and wet year in Australia.
In fact, it was the third-warmest year on record, with the national mean temperature 0.95°C above the 1961-1990 average. Maximum temperatures were 1.27°C above average, making them the second-warmest on record. Similarly, minimum temperatures were 0.62°C above average.
Seven of Australia’s ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, and our annual mean temperature has increased 1.1°C since national records started being kept in 1910. The majority of that 1.1°C increase has happened in the years since 1950.
2017 wasn’t just hotter than average – it was also wetter. It was the thirtieth wettest year since 1900, with 8% more rain than the 1961-1990 average of 465.2 mm.
Annual rainfall was above average for almost all of WA, with the exception of the western-most areas along the coast. Pockets in central and northern WA experienced their highest rainfall levels on record.
Across the state, maximum temperatures were 0.87°C higher than average, and the 8th highest on record. Minimum temperatures were also up across the board – by 0.32°C.
Rainfall was in the highest 10% of historical observations, in a band extending through Western Australia from the Kimberley through the eastern Pilbara and into the southern Interior and western South Australia.
In January, a cloud band associated with a slow-moving tropical low developed over southwest Western Australia. It brought significant rainfall, with daily totals of 50 mm to 140 mm to the northern and central South West Land Division, including Perth.
In terms of statewide average mean temperatures, it was the fifth-warmest year on record for South Australia, with mean, maxima and minima temperatures all within the highest 10% of historical observations across most of the state.
Maximum temperatures were 1.42°C above average, and the third highest on record for the state.
Annual rainfall was above average for the western part of South Australia, and in the highest 10% historically for parts of that region. November saw heavy rainfall across the state.
On December 18th, South Australia had its warmest December night on record – almost nine degrees warmer than the December average. On that day, three locations – Oodnadatta Airport, Marree Aero, and Moomba Airport – all recorded temperatures of 47.1°C.
2017 was the warmest year on record for Queensland.
This could be seen in large parts of central to southern Queensland, where mean temperatures and maximum temperatures were the highest on record. In the southwest, minimum temperatures were also the highest on record. An exceptionally warm September saw monthly temperature records set in Queensland, with a temperature of 42.8°C recorded at Birdsville on the 27th.
Unsurprisingly, the hottest year on record led to increased fire danger. For May to September, the FFDI (Forest Fire Danger Index) values were at record highs across much of the state. On top of this increased risk, annual rainfall was below average in western to southern Queensland. In some parts of central Queensland, rainfall was at the lowest 10% of historical observations.
October, however, brought wetter conditions, with heavy rainfall along the east coast, resulting in flooding around Bundaberg and Tully. Flooding also occurred in March, with the arrival of tropical cyclone Debbie.
New South Wales
Like Queensland, New South Wales experienced its warmest year on record in 2017.
Across the state, mean and maxima were the highest on record. In the northern and eastern parts of the state, minima were also in the highest 10% of historically recorded observations.
On top of record levels of heat, New South Wales also had to contend with historically low levels of rainfall. While March saw the state receive higher than average rainfall (partially due to tropical cyclone Debbie), September was the driest month on record for the state, and the Murray-Darling basin. As a whole, New South Wales received 18% less rainfall in 2017 compared to the historical mean.
In December, daily high temperature records were set in two locations in New South Wales, with a temperature of 44.1°C recorded in Penrith, and 43.0°C recorded in Newcastle.
On the 19th of December, the state had its second-warmest December night on record – just narrowly missing the record set on 21 December 1994.
Tasmania avoided the extremes experienced by Queensland and New South Wales in 2017, but statewide average mean temperature still put the year at the tenth-warmest on record for the state.
In the western part of the state, minima were in the highest 10% of historically recorded observations, and unusually high temperatures in November led to the warmest monthly mean temperatures for Tasmania on record.
Tasmania experienced below average rainfall in 2017, especially in the eastern part of the state, where rainfall was within lowest 10% of historical observations.
Mean temperatures were the highest on record for across the state – except for the Bass Strait islands. Similarly, monthly average maximum temperatures were the highest on record throughout the State except near parts of the north and east coasts.
In 2017, Victorians experienced their sixth-warmest year on record. In the southwestern part of the state, minimum temperatures were in the highest 10% of historical observations.
September was a particularly warm month for Victoria, with the state experiencing the fifth-warmest September day on record on the 23rd. On that day, the mean maximum temperature across the state was 28.98°C, while Mildura reached 37.7°C, setting a new Victorian high temperature record for September.
Rainfall was below average for much of Victoria, especially in the central to eastern parts of the state. In East Gippsland, rainfall was in the lowest 10% of historical observations. The state experienced its driest June on record, and while December brought two to three times the monthly average rainfall for parts of northern Victoria, the year ended with rainfall at 6% below the long-term average.
In the Northern Territory, annual mean temperatures were in the highest top 10% of historical observations across the Top End and the east. Minima and maxima were also both in the highest 10% across most of the territory.
Rainfall was above average in most of the Northern Territory away from the southeast, and even though December was below average, the year ended with the area-average rainfall 19% higher than the long-term average.
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