Australian Weather News

May 1999

Acknowledgments: Australian Weather News gratefully acknowledges the Bureau of Meteorology as the collector and main source of meteorological data in Australia, along with the thousands of observers who record the weather and rainfall daily. I also thank Don White, Michael Bath, Jimmy Deguara, Jacob Aufdemkampe , and Michael Thompson who routinely provide me with much appreciated information.

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Saturday 1 May 1999 .




Sunday 2 May 1999 .




Monday 3 May 1999 .




Tuesday 4 May 1999 .




Wednesday 5 May 1999 .




Thursday 6 May 1999 .




Friday 7 May 1999 .




Saturday 8 May 1999 .




Sunday 9 May 1999 .




Monday 10 May 1999 Heavy rain in SE Qld; heavy showers in WA's dry southwest

Heavy rain on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay

Heavy rain fell steadily for much of the day on the coastal plains from north of Brisbane to around Bundaberg, while thunderstorms gave some respectable falls in the state's west. Local flooding was widespread in the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay areas, but damage to property was restricted to a few roofing problems. Canegrowers have welcomed the rain after a long dry period, and cane crop estimates in Bundaberg have risen to a record 3.65 million tonnes despite considerable cane lodging and a likely reduction of sugar content in the cane.

The heavy rain was caused by a deepening trough off the southeast coast. Hervey Bay Airport recorded 200mm between 9am and midnight, with 129mm falling between midday and 6pm. Other reports of heavy rain included 118mm at Rainbow Beach and 89mm at Baroon Pocket between 9am and 3pm, 42mm between 9pm last night and midnight at Maroochydore, and 33.4mm in 35 minutes to 11am at Double Island Point Lighthouse. Rain eased across the area in the early hours of Tuesday, giving 24 hour totals of 204mm at Hervey Bay AP, 166 at Rainbow Beach, and 148 at Sandy Cape. Boreen Point (Lake Cootharaba) recorded 223.8mm during the rain event, spread over two rainfall days to 9am Tuesday.

Inland, storms and rain areas developed in a second trough, with Blackall recording 27mm of rain between midnight and 6am, and Barcaldine 37mm from an overnight storm.

Brief heavy showers in southwest WA

A small low pressure system developing in a passing troughline gave Western Australia's parched far southwest its second decent rain this year. Busselton Airport recorded 37.6mm in just over 3 hours to 1am, and many locations had falls over 25mm in the 24 hours to 9am Tuesday.


Tuesday 11 May 1999 Brief gales, flooding, heavy rain on Qld/NSW coast and in W Qld

Heavy rain, gales in Qld and NSW 14 May 99, 07 June 1999

A small low developing in a trough off the southern Queensland coast this morning brought brief galeforce winds to southeast Queensland, while pushing a band of heavy rain south onto the NSW north coast. Double Island Point Lighthouse reported galeforce winds between 4 and 6am, with the highest 10-minute average windspeed of 91 km/h, and the highest gust of 109km/h, both recorded at 5am. Maroochydore reported gusts to 87km/h at 5.25am and Cape Moreton to 89km/h at 8am as the low tracked southwards.

Rainfall totals in Queensland for the 24 hours to 9am mostly reflected yesterdays rainfall, and included 204.0mm at Hervey Bay Airport, 166.0 at Rainbow Beach, 153.4 at Como, Pomona and 148.0 at Sandy Cape Lighthouse. Heavy rain fell on the NSW North Coast during the late morning and early afternoon, with 54mm at Ballina Airport, 42 at Cape Byron and 37 at Coffs Harbour Airport between 9am and 3pm. The low swung more southeasterly late afternoon, easing rain and the threat of flooding, but bringing brief galeforce winds to Lord Howe Island, with a peak gust of 89km/h at 7.52pm. Yesterday's heavy rain on the Queensland sunshine coast produced minor flooding on the Mary River in Gympie late this afternoon, and a flood peak of 6.62m was recorded at Dagun Pocket this morning.

Scattered extraordinarily heavy rain was again reported from inland Queensland overnight, though not connected with the coastal low. Rain from cloud ahead of a weakening inland trough gave record high May daily totals to the east and southeast of Blackall. Mantuan Downs, 190km east of the town recorded 135mm in the 24 hours to 9am, breaking its previous May record of 126 in 108 years of rainfall registration, while Nive Downs, 160km southeast of Blackall, reported 58mm, just breaking the previous May record of 57mm in 118 years. Charleville's gauge received 37mm between 9 last night and 3 this morning, while Barcaldine recorded 52mm between 3pm yesterday and 9 this morning.


Wednesday 12 May 1999 Heavy rain in SA, NSW; Fog in central Qld

Heavy showers and storms precede front in SA and NSW

A cold front with an embedded low crossed the South Australian coast this morning, bringing brief heavy rain to the Adelaide Hills and storms to western NSW later in the day. Parawa, in the Hills south of Adelaide, recorded 24mm between 9pm yesterday and 3am this morning, for a 24 hour total of 36mm to 9am. Mount Lofty, east of the city, recorded 33.4 for the 24 hours. Storms in western NSW gave some heavy falls, with Wanaaring Post Office recording 54.3mm in the 24 hours to 9am Thursday. Girilambone reported 33.2mm and Enngonia 32.0mm in the same period. Broken Hill AP received 10mm in 20 minutes to 2.47pm this afternoon.

Widespread fog in central Qld

Unusually widespread thick fog enveloped large areas of the central coast and highlands in Queensland this morning, reducing visibility to less than 100 metres in many areas. The fog developed in cool, calm conditions after general rains in the area over the past few days.


Thursday 13 May 1999 Torrential rain in NW WA

Torrential rain in WA's Pilbara 19 May 1999

Unseasonally heavy rain swept across northwestern WA's Pilbara regions this morning as an active convergence line and associated cloudband moved slowly east across the area. Barrow Island, off the northwest coast, recorded a remarkable 196.2mm between 4 and 8am. 143.4mm fell in two hours from 5 to 7am -- 63.6mm between 5 and 6am, then 79.8mm between 6 and 7am -- with 45.4mm recorded in 24 minutes ended 6.37am. A further downpour later in the day gave 67mm between 9am and 3pm, giving the island over 10 inches of rain on the old scale in less than 12 hours.

Nearby towns on the mainland received lower totals, but still reported flooding from the intense rain. Learmonth Airport recorded 54mm in the 6 hours to 3am, flooding houses in nearby Exmouth still recovering from Cyclone Vance two months ago. Further east, in the Kimberley, Warmun received its heaviest May 24 hour rainfall total in 35 years of record when 40mm broke the previous record of 38.0mm.


Friday 14 May 1999 Rain in northern WA; Gales in Tasmania

Heavy rain continues in WA's North

A band of rain associated with an active convergence line and narrow moisture infeed from the northwest moved slowly east across northwestern Australia today giving unseasonably heavy falls. Onslow recorded 70mm at the airport in the 24 hours to 9am, while the Post Office registered 51mm, 27 falling between 6 and 9am. Further inland, the Newman raingauge received 54mm in 6 hours to 9pm this evening, while Wittenoom recorded 34mm between 9am and 6pm.

Storm force winds lash Tasmania

An approaching low brought gales across Tasmania today, with storm force winds in highland and coastal locations. Devonport Airport recorded wind gusts to 85km/h at 4.22am, while the summit of Mount Wellington reported winds gusting over 100km/h for much of the day, peaking at 128km/h at 3.30am. Galeforce winds were also reported from the NSW and Victorian Alps and along the Victorian coast. Thredbo's Crackenback station recorded a peak gust of 107km/h at 11pm, with gusts above 90km/h much of the day.


Saturday 15 May 1999 Wintry weather in SE Australia

Widespread snow in Victoria and Tasmania

The coldest Autumn polar outbreak in 10 years engulfed the southeastern states today, bringing snow to unusually low levels for May in Tasmania and Victoria. Weeaproinah, at an altitute of 500m in the Otway ranges southwest of Melbourne, reported snow showers and a temperature of 2.0C at 9am, while press reports said snow fell in Ballarat with a temperature around zero at 10am. Snow was also reported at Olinda (550m) and Ferny Creek (450m) in the Dandenongs, and a football match was abandonned at Kinglake (550m) because of heavy snow. Waterspouts were sighted on Port Philip off Mornington, Portarlington and Werribee, wintry hail showers were widespread, and some heavy rainfalls were recorded -- 58mm at Weeaproinah and 52.6 at Wilsons Promintory in the 24 hours to 9am. Melbourne's top temperature for the day, 10.4C, was the lowest May maximum since 31 May 1977. At Latrobe Valley Airport, the temperature only rose to 8.0C, 8.8 below average, while Geelong's maximum of 11 was the second lowest May top temp on record. Galeforce winds battered coastal and highland areas.

In Tasmania, snow fell nearly to sea level, with Geeveston Forestry Station, 60m above sea level, reporting prolonged but light snow overnight. Maydena in the upper Derwent Valley, Erriba in the state's north, and all Highland stations reported snow.

Galeforce winds caused tree damage in the Central West of NSW and brought down trees and powerlines in and around Sydney as an active cold front swept through. Mt Boyce, in the upper Blue Mountains, recorded a wind gust of 104km/h at 4pm, while in Sydney South Head also registered a wind gust of 104km/h at 7.13pm. Heavy snow fell in the Snowy Mountains, and snow was reported from Oberon overnight into Sunday.


Sunday 16 May 1999 Record cold morning in NSW and Victoria

Record cold morning in NSW and northern Victoria 24 May 1999 (Updated temperatures)

Following yesterday's cold outbreak over southeastern states, calm conditions overnight produced a crop of record or near-record low May temperatures across central and southern NSW and northern Victoria this morning. Minimum temperatures were almost universally more than 8 below average across the region, and up to 11 below in places. Nerriga on the South Coast recorded -6.4 (10.8 below) and Nhill in western Victoria registered -4.2 (10.3 below). Coldest place was Cooma Airport with -9.5, while Orange and Bathurst Airports both recorded -7. Falls Creek in the Victorian Alps recorded a minimum of -7.7, only 0.6 above the all-time coldest May minimum recorded anywhere in Victoria. Canberra's minimum of -5.8 was the city's lowest minimum so early in the season since 1957, whilst Melbourne's 3.1 was its coldest May morning since 1981, and Sydney's 7 (rounded) was said by the Bureau to be the coldest since 1987. In Sydney's western suburbs at Seven Hills, the morning produced the earliest frost for the year in at least 23 years of record.

Record low temperatures for May set this morning (all to be confirmed -- some are rounded) included:

Location This Morning Previous record Years of record
Peats Ridge NSW 1.1 2.2 16
Tocumwal AP NSW -2.1 -1.5 27
Mildura AP Vic -2.0 -0.4 52
Nhill Vic -4.2 -3.4 41
Warracknabeal Vic -2.4 -1.8 24
Corryong Vic -3.1 -2.6 23
Dartmouth Reservoir Vic -3.5 -2.4 17
Mangalore AP Vic -4.0 -2.5 39
Weeaproinah Vic 1.3 2.7 12


Monday 17 May 1999 Cold morning in NSW but warm in SA/NT

Cold mornings continue in NSW and Vic, but unusually warm in SA and NT 07 July 1999

Exceptionally cold morning minimum temperatures for May continued in NSW this morning, with the south of the state and the central and northern slopes and plains, as well as parts of Victoria, all recording temperatures 8 or more degrees below normal. Cooma Visitors Centre reported the lowest temperature in the nation, -8.6, while Hillston Airport registered the greatest departure from normal with a minimum of -3.2 being 10.7 below the May average. Corryong and Mangalore Airport in Victoria had the dubious distinction of breaking or equalling their record low May temperatures for the second consecutive day. Corryong yesterday broke its record of -2.6 with a reading of -3.1, while this morning the thermometer dropped to -3.2. Mangalore has recorded -4 (rounded) on both mornings, compared to a previous record of -2.5 in nearly 40 years of record.

Meanwhile, the region around the Northern Territory/South Australian border has seen an unusually mild morning. Kulgera recorded a minimum of 19.0, 9.8 above average, and nearby Curtin Springs reported 15.9, 7.5 above. Further north, dry and gusty southeasterly winds are producing high fire dangers, with fires threatening properties in Palmerston and Humpty Doo today.

Record low temperatures for May set this morning (all to be confirmed -- some are rounded) included:

Location This Morning Previous record Years of record
Parramatta North NSW 1.4 3.0 30
Cooma Visitors Centre NSW -8.6 -7.6 24
Narrandera Council NSW -2.5 -2.0 28
Hay NSW -1.6 -1.4 41
Hillston AP NSW -3.2 -2.8 41
Corryong Vic -3.2 -3.1 (yesterday!) 23
Mangalore AP Vic -4.0 -4.0 (yesterday!) 39
Maryborough Vic -2.0 -1.5 33


Tuesday 18 May 1999 Hot in the Centre, cold in SE Vic

Hot in the Centre, but record cold morning in SE Victoria

Top temperatures today soared into the mid thirties in central Australia, with readings up to 11 degrees above the May norm. Kulgera recorded a top of 33.5, 11.2 above average, while Alice Springs Airport reported 33, 10 above. The temperatures followed another warm night, with minima 7 to 9 above average.

Southeastern Victoria, meanwhile, shivered as East Sale Airport recorded its coldest May morning in a record stretching back 53 years. The minimum of -3.0 broke the previous record of -2.8.


Wednesday 19 May 1999 Heavy rain in SE Qld; Storms in WA; Heat in the Centre

Heavy rain brings flooding to SE Qld

Heavy, localised rain on the Sunshine Coast throughout today gave up to 200mm at some locations, closed roads and caused brief but minor flooding in most of the area's streams. To blame was a small-scale, very slow moving area of strong convection which developed as an upper trough moved over the state's southeast inducing the development of a broad trough off the coast at the surface.

Heaviest rainfalls were in the Tewantin and Maroochydore area. Tewantin RSL recorded 46mm to 9am today and a further 152 to 9am Thursday, a 2-day total of 198mm. Coolum Beach (Point Arkwright) recorded 82.2 and 122.2mm in the same periods, for a total of 204.4mm. The rain began falling late on Tuesday afternoon, and Maroochydore had 43mm in the gauge by 9pm. Rainbands moved slowly in from the NNE, with the heaviest falls occurring close to the coast between about 9am and 6pm. Double Island Point Lighthouse registered 106mm between 9am and 3pm, with 39.4mm falling in 49 minutes to 12.25pm, and 12.0mm falling in 10 minutes to 12.06pm. Rainbow Beach recorded 93mm in 6 hours to 3pm, while 118mm fell at Tewantin RSL and 91mm at Maroochydore between 9am and 9pm.

Storms bring record rain and cause damage in SW WA 07 July 1999

Heavy storms occurred across southern WA today as an active cold front swept the state associated with a small low pressure system skirting the south coast. In the Perth suburb of Westfield, one house was unroofed, 15 others damaged by flying debris, trees were brought down by what is thought to have been a strong downdraft in a storm just before midday. The strongest wind gust reported in the state was 93km/h at Cape Leeuwin at 2.20pm, while in the Perth metropolitan area, Swanbourne recorded a gust of 63km/h at 11.16am. Many locations in the west and south of the state reported 25 to 50mm from the rainband ahead of the front, or the storms accompanying the front, with heavy falls extending up the coast to Carnarvon, where 33mm fell between 3 and 9am. The heaviest rain was recorded at Lancelin, on the coast north of Perth, where 61mm fell between midnight and 6am. The one day total to 9am at Lancelin of 64.6mm broke the previous 24-hour May rainfall record of 63.0mm at the station in 32 years of record.

Heat continues in the Centre

Temperatures continued to be around 10 degrees above normal in the north of South Australia and the southern Northern Territory today. Kulgera, near the SA/NT border south of Alice Springs, continued its run of high May maximum temperatures with a top of 33.5, 11.2 above normal, while Marla recorded 33.6 (10.9 above), and Eucla, just over the WA border and close to the Great Australian Bight registered 31.0 (10.1 above). Earlier, Marree experienced a hot night for May when the temperature dropped only to 19.0, 10.2 above average.


Thursday 20 May 1999 Late-season heat in SE Australia

Late-season warmth spreads through SE Australia

The unusually warm late-season weather that's been experienced in Central Australia for the past week extended southeast to cover much of SA, Victoria and southern NSW today, with some late-season records threatened or possibly toppled. In Victoria, East Sale reported a top temperature of 25C, rounded to the nearest degree. Depending on the decimal point, this may be the warmest day on record so late in the season. Melbourne's maximum reached 23.2, the second-highest temperature so late in Autumn, whilst Canberra's 21C was also a contender for a late-season record, depending on the decimal figure. The highest temperatures relative to average continue to be in northern SA where Marla recorded 34.7, 12.0 above normal, and Kulgera just over the border in the NT reported 33.8, 11.5 above.


Friday 21 May 1999 Central Australian warm spell continues

"Warmwave" in Central Australia enters second week

The duration of unseasonably warm weather in northern SA and around the SA/NT border is quite unusual. For 8 consecutive days now, the maxima in this area have been 8 to 12C above the May average. The stations with the greatest positive departure from normal max temp over the past 8 days have been:

Nights have been warm, too. This morning, Broken Hill, Marree and Arkaroola in the northern Flinders Ranges all had minima between 19 and 20C, 11 to 12 above average.

21 May 1999
Budget brings extra funds, improved web site for Bureau

An additional $4.8 million for the Bureau of Meteorology announced in last week's budget will improve public access to Bureau information, particularly through the Internet. Sources within the Bureau have indicated that the improvements will include free radar, currently only available on subscription.

Other areas earmarked for additional expenditure include enhanced services to provincial centres and rural areas through field meteorological offices, with improved information services to the agricultural sector high on the list.

Further improvements to the Bureau's observation and climate monitoring network will be funded, as well as development of prediction techniques, with an emphasis on severe weather prediction.

While cynics may argue that the increase merely restores funding to the Bureau that was previously cut, the additional moneys will allow the Bureau to implement key recommendations of the 1996 Slatyer review into Bureau operations.

The Minister's press release stated "the funding also contributes to the National Greenhouse Strategy by supporting the maintenance of observing networks. (These) are vital in establishing the baseline national and regional climate and in identifying trends and changes in climate and their distinction from natural climate variability. It will also lead to the improved use of climate forecasts and climate change scenarios in agriculture as an integral part of adaptation strategies."


Saturday 22 May 1999 .

Torrential rain brings problems to Adelaide and nearby Hills 24 May 1999

A cold front associated with a developing Low near Kangaroo Island brought thunderstorms with heavy downpours to Adelaide and nearby areas this evening. The Bureau of Meteorology's Regional Forecasting Centre in Kent Town, Adelaide, recorded the top rainfall of 41mm in the 24 hours to 9am Sunday. This is the highest daily rainfall recorded in May since the Bureau relocated to this site in 1977. 30.4mm fell between 8.30 and 10pm. Parafield Airport recorded 30.0mm, its highest May daily total in 47 years. Other heavy 24 hour falls were 45.0mm at the Second Valley Forest AWS near Parawa in the Hills south of Adelaide, 42 at suburban Meadows and Torrens Island, and 41.6 at the Mt Lofty ABC transmitter.

Local flooding was reported throughout the metropolitan area, with police closing several roads in the city and power out in some areas. Sandbagging was required to protect a retirement village at Stirling from flooding, while a helicopter required to service an emergency was grounded at Victor Harbour because of the storm. The strongest wind gust at Adelaide Kent Town was 50km/h at 9.30pm, but earlier in the afternoon Port Lincoln registered a gust of 69km/h as the line of storms swept through.

Warm spell continues in the Centre

Central Australia's warm spell entered its ninth day today with Alice Springs AP recording a top of 31C, 8 above normal.

22 May 1999
New Zealand government to sell MetService

The New Zealand Budget, delivered last Thursday, signalled the sale of MetService, the NZ equivalent of the Bureau of Meteorology.

The corporatised meteorological service has been operating on a highly commercial basis similar to many European national weather services for several years. The Budget, delivered by Treasurer Bill Birch, is the last to be presented by the current National Party government. With opinion polls running in favour of the opposition Labour party and an election due later this year, it remains to be seen whether the sale eventuates.

22 May 1999
Weather 21 introduces viewers to the upper atmosphere

In a first for public media weather presentation in Australia, Weather 21, Foxtel's weather channel, has introduced simplified upper air charts for viewers.

The charts show jetsteams, and their effect on the movement of upper systems, cloudbands and blocking systems. The upper atmosphere is seldom mentioned in the Australian press or electronic media, or in Bureau public weather statements, apart from occasional references to "upper air disturbances". Weather 21 is predominantly received by rural viewers, who are likely to appreciate the greater understanding of the weather that comes with an appreciation of upper air meteorology.


Sunday 23 May 1999 Useful rain in SA, NSW, Victoria; Gales in SA

Low brings rain to SA, NSW and Victoria, gales to the Adelaide area

A low pressure system deepened south of Kangaroo Island bringing galeforce winds to southeastern SA this morning. Kangaroo Island bore the brunt of the wind, with gusts at Cape Borda averaging 70 to 90km/h all morning, with several peak gusts reaching 96km/h. Mt Lofty summit also reported high winds around dawn, with a maximum gust of 94km/h at 6am. Showers continued to provide useful totals in SA's dry southeast, and spread into western and northern Victoria during the day, accompanying a front attached to the Low.

Farmers welcomed the weekend falls, which generally ranged from 10 to 50mm, and are now set to start seeding grain crops. Among the higest weekend totals to 9am Monday were Heathfield 72.4mm, Bridgewater 68.0 and Uraidla 60.0, all in the Adelaide area. In the NSW eastern Riverina, Henty recorded 54 and Rankins Springs 36, Culcairn 34.4 and Albury 34, while in Victoria Halls Gap reported 37.6, Beechworth 29.4, Harrietville 29 and Eurobin 27.4. 15mm fell in Benalla, Victoria, between 3 and 6pm, and 14mm in Albury between 6 and 9pm as the rainband associated with the front passed through.


Monday 24 May 1999 Heavy weather in Tasman; Storms in W NSW

Rain, gales and huge seas in the Tasman 07 July 1999

A Low, which developed last Thursday evening in the Coral Sea about 500km NW of New Caledonia, brought gales to the Tasman Sea, torrential rain on Lord Howe Island, and heavy seas along the south Queensland and northern NSW coasts today. The Low developed dramatically on Friday afternoon, nearly to tropical cyclone strength, when off the NW tip of New Caledonia. Its central pressure dropped from 999hPa to 986 between 10am and 4pm. Since then, it has maintained its central pressure in the low 990s as it has moved southward with remarkable consistency of speed, but several wobbles to the SE and SW. A band of gale to storm force winds in its southern sector has caused worries for shipping, while the lengthy duration of high winds has produced heavy seas along the eastern Australian coastline.

Seas along the south Queensland coastline were peaked at a significant wave height of 8m today. Heavy rain preceded the Low. Lord Howe Island Airport recorded 189.6mm in the 24 hours between 8pm EST yesterday and 8pm today, with 124.6mm falling between noon and 7pm today.

Heavy storm rains in western NSW

A line of heavy thunderstorms formed along a cold front as it moved through western and northern NSW early this morning. Wilcannia, in NSW's far northwest, registered 64.4mm in the storm, while Mount Hope, halfway between Cobar and Griffith, recorded 34.8. The southern extension of the front gave heavy falls in Victoria and southern NSW (see yesterday's story).


Tuesday 25 May 1999 Heavy weather continues in Tasman; Rain in SA, Tas, Vic

High seas continue along east coast

Large waves since early Sunday morning have badly damaged many beaches on Queensland's Sunshine and Gold Coasts. Some have almost disappeared, and press reports quote locals as saying it is the worst beach erosion in the area in a decade. Three boats were reported in distress in the foul weather -- an injured woman was winched by helecopter off a yacht off Southport, Qld, an injured man was rescued from a yacht off Port Macquarie, leaving 4 companions to wait out the heavy weather, and a crewman was helicoptered off a ship off Botany Bay with injuries caused by the rough seas. The Manly Hydraulics Laboratory buoys, all tethered about 20km off the NSW coast, were reporting average wave heights around 4 metres from Byron Bay to Eden today, with those north from Sydney beginning to ease by day's end, but those on the South Coast still increasing. Eden reported average wave heights of 5.5m late afternoon. Press reports indicated coastal wave heights to 7 metres on the NSW North Coast.

Heavy rain in SA, Victoria and Tasmania 07 July 1999

Heavy rain tapered off in South Australia today, after bringing up to 150mm to areas around Adelaide in the past three days. The heaviest falls were in the hills to the southeast and east of the Capital. Uraidla recorded 158.4mm, Heathfield 143.6 and Lenswood 136.6 in the 48 hours to 9am this morning. Uraidla's 24 hour fall of 98.4mm to 9 this morning is a 24-hour record for May for the Adelaide area, eclipsing the previous May record of 88.9mm in 109 years of record. Other heavy 24-hour totals were 90.2 at Ashton Co-op, 79.5 at Mt Lofty ABC Transmitter and 78.0 at Cleland Conservation Park.

In Tasmania, falls of 30 to 60mm were common along the North Coast and nearby highlands overnight, as moist air streamed southeast ahead of the Low south of Kangaroo Island. For the 24 hours to 9am, Ringarooma reported 67.2mm, Liena 59.8, and Sea View Pyengana 58.4. Minor flooding occurred in the Meander River, with a peak of 2.20m around 6am.

In Victoria, heavy rain was reported overnight in the northeast highlands. Peechelba East, 20km north of Wangaratta, recorded 67.0mm, Edi Upper in the King River valley recorded 45.8 in the 24 hours to 9am, Falls Creek 40.0mm, Mt Hotham 39.0 and Harrietville 37.8.


Wednesday 26 May 1999 Rain in WA; Squalls in SA, Vic, Tas

Widespread rain in WA 29 May 1999

Rain fell across most of Western Australia southwest of a line from Carnarvon to Esperance today. A low pressure system, which has been developing about 1000km west of Geraldton, extends up through the atmosphere to over 10km. The winds around this system have developed a classic northwesterly cloud and rain band which today crossed the WA coast in the Geraldton area, bringing falls of 30 to 75mm to the Central Coast and Central West divisions in the 24 hours to 9am. Narra Tarra, about 50km NE of Geraldton received the state's top 24-hour rainfall with 78.5mm, closely followed by Geraldton Airport on 74.0. Other heavy falls included Lynton, on the coast NW of Northampton, 62mm, Bowgada, 30km SE of Morawa, 59.6, and Paynes Find 53. The rain spread SE during the day, giving Southern Cross Airport 19mm between 3 and 9pm. There were some periods of heavy rain: Geraldton Airport recorded 38mm in 3 hours to 3am, while Dalwallinu received 23mm in 3 hours to 9am. The rain caused flooding on roads in the Geraldton area, and is unusual for May -- the average rainfall for the whole month in Geraldton is only 74mm.

Squall line crosses three states 07 July 1999

A remarkably well integrated squall line was part of a frontal system which crossed SE South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania during the afternoon and early evening. Radar images showed the continuous squall line moving east at around 60km/h, and at 5pm extending from near Horsham in western Victoria, through western Melbourne and Launceston. In northern Tasmania, gales associated with the squall line brought down trees and powerlines in many locations. Among the higher wind gusts reported with the frontal passage were, in SA: Cape Jaffa, SW of Kingston, 63km/h at 12.47 CST; in Victoria: Airey's Inlet several gusts between 83 and 87km/h between noon and 1.30pm, Cerberus on Mornington Peninsula 63km/h at 5.09pm, Dunns Hill near Mt Dandenong 57km/h at 6.51pm, and Mt Hotham 96km/h at 4pm; and in Tasmania: Wynyard Airport 98km/h at 2.36pm, Devonport Airport 83km/h at 3.07pm, Cape Grim, 115km/h at 4pm and Mt Wellington summit 135km/h at 10.11pm. Only light to moderate rain fell briefly with the front giving at most around 10mm.


Thursday 27 May 1999 Record Rain in WA

Record rain brings flooding to WA 07 July 1999

Widespread rain between 50 and 150mm fell across the WA central coast and wheatbelt in the 24 hours to 9 this morning, leading to fears of flooding at Moora, 170km north of Perth, and Perenjori, 200km further north. Eight homes were evacuated at Perenjori earlier in the day, but water levels were dropping there late afternoon. Moora was on standby for possible evacuation this evening, only two months after devastating floods caused by Tropical Cyclone Elaine ravaged the town. All roads north of Moora were closed, and Geraldton was isolated by road due to flooding. Thousands of hectares of newly-sown crops are underwater.

Dozens of daily rainfall records for May fell when the 9am reports came in this morning. The heaviest falls were to the north and east of Geraldton. Kalbarri, 120km north of Geraldton, recorded the top fall of 145.2mm, an all-time daily rainfall record, bringing the settlement's 2-day total to 186.4mm. Minginew, 90km SE of Geraldton, recorded 125.2mm (165.8 in 48 hours), and dozens of centres west of a line from Kalbarri to Southern Cross have recorded over 100mm in the past two days. Whilst totals were received of 186.4 from Balline and 134.8 from Binnu West, both in the Kalbarri district, it is not yet clear whether these were for 24 or 48 hours.

Rain fell steadily over the area from early yesterday morning until mid-morning to mid-afternoon today in a moist, unstable northwesterly stream flowing down from Indonesia on the eastern side of a slow-moving complex Low west of Perth. Wet and windy weather continued in the southwest and along the south coast overnight into Friday as the Low move past Cape Leeuwin into the Southern Ocean. Winds gusted to 94km/h at Cape Leeuwin, 89km/h on Rottnest Island, and 87km/h in the Perth suburb of Swanbourne, while heavy seas caused some beach erosion.

Some long-standing daily rainfall records were broken, giving some idea of the rarity of this event. Locations which broke their all-time daily rainfall record included Nabawa, 30km NNE of Geraldton, with 83.0mm breaking its previous record 78.4mm in 73 years of record; Ogilvie, near Northampton, 117.0 (99.1 in 79 years) and Yandanooka, 20km SE of Mingenew, 122.2 (98.8 in 76 years). Among dozens of stations breaking their May daily rainfall record were Mingenew PO 125.2mm (57.7 in 91 years), Dalwallinu 65.6 (55.1 in 86 years), Geraldton Airport 76.0 (62.2 in 57 years), and in the far southwest, Cape Naturaliste recorded 83.0mm, breaking its previous May record of 73.8 in 92 years of record.


Friday 28 May 1999 Floods, record rain continue in WA

Moora, WA, evacuated as flooding threatens 07 July 1999

Evacuation of the WA wheatbelt town of Moora was ordered late this morning as floodwaters from the Moore River began to enter town. All road access to the town was closed, and authorities were concerned that levee banks may breach. Dozens of residents were evacuated to Perth, but hundreds ignored the evacuation call and stayed behind. High water levels continued in the business centre and around some houses through into Saturday, though damage is expected to be less than in the March floods as residents had more warning and time for preparation. The Greenough River at Walkaway also caused some evacuations in that town.

Several May daily rainfall records were set again this morning as the rainband moved southeast and the 9am 24-hour totals came in. Perhaps most remarkable was Baandee North, near Kellerberrin in the middle of the state's wheat belt. Baandee North's previous highest 24-hour total in 88 years of recording the rain was 47.0mm, set in 1944. The station broke that record with 48.4mm to 9am yesterday morning, and broke it again with 48.8 to 9am this morning.


Saturday 29 May 1999 No reports of significant weather

Sunday 30 May 1999 Heavy rain in NE Victoria, NSW Snowy Mountains

Torrential rain in the NSW Snowy Mountains and Victoria's NE

An active rain band in a frontal system which stalled most of the day over NE Victoria produced record rain for May at a number of centres in the area. Most noteworthy was Kosciuszko Chalet at Charlotte Pass, where 207mm fell in 24 hours to 3pm today, 108 between 9am and 3pm. A further 63mm overnight to 9am Monday gave the skiing centre 171mm for the 24 hours and 270mm in just two days. Nearby Perisher Valley registered 150mm in 3 days to 9am Monday. In Victoria, Eurobin recorded 93.4mm in the 24 hours to 9 this morning, while Bright received 110.4 and Edi Upper in the King Valley 85.8 in the 2 days to 9am Monday.

30 May 1999
Bureau Gopher service closes

The Bureau of Meteorology's Gopher will close tomorrow. The Gopher was the Bureau's first public face on the net, and has been operating continuously for over 5 years.

Bruce Buckley, NSW Manager for Bureau Weather Services, said "The demise of gopher was inevitable as it was never promoted as an official Bureau data source (although many people came to know and use the server - unsupported as it was). The machine is now 5.5 years old - which is very old for a continuously operating computer."

Whilst the Bureau's Website now offers most of what was carried on the Gopher, and a great deal more, there are several Gopher services that are not available on the free Web. These include:

These products, and more, are available to registered users for a charge. Subscription to a substantial range of Bureau charts costs $55 per month or $600 for a year. The aviation forecasts and observations carried on the Gopher are still freely available on the web at, but these, too, are due to become a subscription item.

However, the demise of the gopher effectively reduces the number of forecast charts available freely to the public to two -- one manually produced 24-hour forecast chart updated once a day about 7am EST, and a very simplified 36-hour forecast isobar chart issued about noon EST.

The Bureau is, however, currently reviewing its policies on what products are included in its free or Basic Product Set. This is, in part, due to additional funding received in the last budget. It is known that limited radar will soon be available, and it is possible that a wider range of charts and observations may also be placed on the free Web.

30 May 1999
Preliminary BoM Sydney-Hobart Race report finds Bureau not at fault

A preliminary report into meteorological and forecasting aspects of the tragic Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race storm last December has found no fault with the Bureau's forecasting and communications procedures before and during the race.

The report, which is now available on the web, paints a detailed picture of the meteorology of the storm which resulted in the loss of six lives, and the retirement or abandonment of 71 yachts out of a field of 115. It was the most disastrous event in the race's 54 year history.

The report describes the storm as a classic east coast "bomb" low, except that it formed in Bass Strait. It says that "the storm force winds and high seas experienced during the Race were part of the circulation around a number of very intense mesoscale [small] low pressure systems embedded within a parent low system which developed rapidly over the southeast corner of the continent during the 24 hour period beginning from 11pm 26 December."

The most significant mesoscale low developed about 40km north of Wynyard on the northwestern Tasmanian coast late on 26 December, then deepened dramatically to around 980hPa over the next 12 hours as it moved first northeast toward the Victorian coast, then east and parallel to the coast.

The highest reliable wind records, the report says, were recorded on the Navy's relay ship for the race, the Young Endeavour, with a recorded mean wind of 56 knots (104km/h) about 11pm on 27 December. Wind data from Kingfish B Platform, in Bass Strait southeast of Sale, recorded peak mean winds of around the same speed, with maximum gusts to 64 knots (119km/h), mid-morning and again mid afternoon on the 27th. The report says "Gusts and squalls of considerably higher wind speeds would almost certainly have been experienced by the yachts for short periods of time as mean winds of this magnitude (55 to 60 knots) could be expected to produce gusts of 70 to 75 knots (130 to 139km/h)." The report refers to mean winds of 79 knots (146km/h) reported at Wilsons Promintory at 9am on the 27th, but concludes that they were not representative of surface conditions, as the Lighthouse is 100m above sea level, and additionally prone to local topographic effects.

The highest reliable sea reports available for the preliminary report also came from the Young Endeavour, which reported a combined sea/swell height around 8 metres while located about 30 nautical miles east of Gabo Island at 11pm on 27 December. The Bureau's own significant wave height computer model, based on ocean response to the wind field, generated wave heights just over 7 metres in the same general area at the same time. The report indicates that a southward current (i.e. opposing the wind direction) of about 4 knots was flowing down the NSW coast, and would have steepened the already high waves.

The report details forecasts and briefings issued to yacht crews in the lead-up to the race, as well as the issue of warnings and operational forecasting matters at the time. It finds:

The report stresses that gale and storm warnings issued by the Bureau refer to average wind speeds and significant wave heights (defined as the average height of the highest third of waves). The critical Bureau storm warning referred to winds of 45 to 55 knots and seas of 4 to 6 metres. The report indicates that, under these conditions, wind gusts to 70 knots and infrequent maximum wave heights of about 13 metres could be expected. The Director of Meteorology was quoted in the press as suggesting sailors may need to improve their understanding of wind speed averages and the significance of storm warnings.

The report also notes that competitors were provided with a system for sending the Bureau observations of actual conditions during the race by email, but that no observations were received.

A final report will be issued after additional information is assimilated from sources such as surveys of competitors currently in progress.


Monday 31 May 1999 No reports of significant weather
31 May 1999
Bureau's data access policies -- a light at the end of the tunnel?

Nearly two and a half years after Professor Ralph Slatyer delivered two reports into the operation of the Bureau to the Minister for the Environment, fundamental decisions on the legal nature of Australia's weather data, the cost and means of accessing it, and the rights of citizens or businesses to exchange, trade or discuss it have yet to be made. The delay is causing headaches for commercial weather providers keen to use the data. It's also locking useful information away from those with an economic or scientific interest in it in agriculture, industry and the general community.

Hopefully, this situation is about to change. The Bureau of Meteorology has called a meeting of commercial meteorological service providers, including Australian Weather News, for 10 June. The meeting will discuss likely future directions in weather services, and in particular the availability of weather information in Australia, and the freedom of using it.

What was recommended

In his first report 3 years ago in March 1996, Professor Slatyer recommended that "The Bureau should accelerate the implementation of systems and related data access and charging policies for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of external access to its data and products." A phrase that recurred in that report was "...much more needs to be done, and done quickly."

Slatyer's second report in January 1997 addressed "the scope to enhance revenue generation" by the Bureau. It recommended that all Bureau products be placed into three categories -- those freely available (via the web and through the media), those available on a cost-recovery basis, and, finally, value-added products which would be available at commercial rates via the Bureau's Special Services Unit. "Cost recovery" was defined by Slatyer as a charge which "should cover the direct costs associated with provision of the service...but should not cover any part of the cost of provision of the basic infrastructure".

Slatyer believed that the Bureau's core functions, including its data, were "classic public goods" and sought the widest possible distribution of them for the economic benefit of individuals and the nation. He suggested that access agreements would be necessary to "ensure that the integrity of the information was upheld."

What's happened

Since Slatyer, the Bureau has poured considerable effort and money -- said to be over $1m -- into developing its free website, and the copyright notice on the site allows relatively free and easy distribution of the materials contained on it. The site carries a broad range of warning and forecast information, an exemplary climatic section, but only a limited range of actual weather data.

It is this area where lack of policy is now causing major headaches -- the distribution of the wealth of observational, radar, satellite and other data held by the Bureau. Slatyer wrote, in March 1996: "The Bureau has made a start on establishing the infrastructure for improving its external access systems but has been slowed by the need to put in place robust systems for data base security and the need to resolve issues such as intellectual property and legal responsibilities. The Review was informed that an external Internet data access server will be operational by the end of the first quarter of 1996 and that the Bureau's satellite data archive, browse and access systems are being upgraded. However, much more work needs to be done, and done quickly."

Three years later, the Bureau has developed secure access systems to much of its current observational and recent temperature and rainfall data, as well as some current radar and satellite imagery and computer forecast output. However, most of this data is available only on subscription, users sign an agreement not to secondary-distribute the data, and the legal and intellectual property implications of using the data are still unclear.

Cost and confusion

The cost and legal uncertainty in using the data has resulted in a valuable national asset being vastly underutilised. Commercial meteorological providers have been unwilling or unable to exploit the usefulness of the information until policies are clarified, while individual users are either unaware of what could be available, or are turned off by high charges.

A subscription to current weather observations costs $100 a year, while quality-controlled data, radar, satellite pictures and forecast charts cost $600 a year for each service -- or a total of $2,500 if you want the lot. Rather unsurprisingly, it is believed the take-up rate for subscriptions has been lower than hoped, with fewer than 250 individuals or companies becoming registered users, many of them government agencies. Plans for low-cost daily access to the data appear to be on hold, leaving the Bureau's Weather by Fax service as the relatively high-cost, low-tech alternative for accessing some of the Bureau's output. Revenues from this go to the Bureau's commercial arm, the Special Services Unit.

The legal issue is more complex. The Bureau appears to have moved from a position where it agreed with Slatyer that meteorological information was a public property to one where it is becoming highly protective of what it sees as its intellectual property in the information.

It has been developing two tools to regulate this process -- a Basic Product Set and a Secondary Distribution Policy. The Basic Product Set lists all products which are to be freely available and which may be freely used. Everything not on it is cost recovery. The Secondary Distribution Policy, which must be agreed to by every user of non-Basic Product Set information, currently prevents any further distribution of the information by the user, with stiff legal penalties for doing so.

To further cloud the issue, no up-to-date versions of either document are available, leaving commercial providers and organisations such as this website in legal limbo.

The Basic Product Set cut

Slatyer saw the Basic Product Set as comprising commonly used weather information, including whatever useful information that new technologies made available. This would be available at no charge, with the Bureau's Internet site as the primary distribution channel. Products (information) not listed in the Basic Product Set should be made cheaply available for the cost of extracting the product from the Bureau's basic systems. This cut between products is nothing new -- the Bureau has had a similar system for differentiating its products for decades.

However, these often arbitrary lines in the sand between the two sets of information become far more sensitive if one set is free and the other very costly and surrounded by legal constraints on its use.

Take daily rainfall reports -- essential information for those on the land -- as an example. At present, about 20% of Australian rainfall stations report to the Bureau daily, and their reports are available freely on the Web. In the capital cities, there is a dense coverage of rainfall information available for free. But the farmer in Tamworth must pay a $600 per year subscription in order to get similar information, because, though there is a similar dense network of gauges in the area, they report only monthly by post and their data is not part of the Basic Product Set.

Wherever the lines in the sand are drawn between Basic and non-Basic data, there will be problems; in particular problems of equity.

Thorny legal issues

Aside from questions of cost, the issues surrounding intellectual property seem to be driving much of the policy formulation at the Bureau. If it is to recover costs for making data available, it is reasoned, the Bureau must protect its commercial and intellectual interest in that data, otherwise one user could make one purchase of the data and make it freely available to all, thus undercutting the Bureau's cost-recovery income base. As data is not, under present copyright legislation, able to be copyrighted (although the representation of it can be), the Bureau plans to rely on agreements with those to whom it supplies data not to secondary distribute that data. A copy of the proposed access regime and a sample agreement is available on the Bureau's website.

This secondary distribution policy goes well beyond what was envisaged by Slatyer, who saw the Bureau's data as public property, and the secondary distribution policy simply as a means of maintaining its integrity. Registered users who break the agreement may find their access to data terminated, and substantial legal penalties awarded against them. The unfortunate consequence if this attitude persists is that a legal minefield will surround the discussion, dissemination and use of non-Basic Product Set data.

A British weather consultant, Norman Lynagh, recently stated on the Aussie-weather mailing list that "The Basic/non-Basic split is what is currently used in Europe with each country arbitrarily deciding where the line is drawn... The system has generated a great deal of bad feeling and conflict and there has been a fair bit of legal activity. Sometimes," he concluded, "I think the lawyers are the only real winners!"

A more enlightened approach?

The United States approach to public information is very different to the European one. It is perhaps best summed up in the philosophy stated on NASA's new site: "Since taxpayers have footed the bill for the information gathering, they should have easy access to the results." The US model for weather data (and most other publicly funded information) is to make all data freely available (or possibly at extraction cost for more esoteric data), to place it in the public domain, and to encourage its discussion, exchange and use. The result of that policy can be seen in the links pages on this site -- the majority of public activity that is driving the usefulness of weather information is coming out of the US.

This is the background against which the meeting between the Bureau and commercial meteorological service providers on 10 June will take place. Slatyer saw a growth in the commercial weather sector as essential to providing the weather services required in a complex, growing economy. Indeed, the Bureau's objectives include "fostering co-operation with the private sector to help ensure that the benefits of meteorological services flow through to the Australian community and the Australian economy."

It is to be hoped that this meeting will help to clear what appears to be a policy logjam within the Bureau, and clarify some of the issues that Senator Hill, as Minister with responsibility for the Bureau, must address in formally responding to the Slatyer Reports.