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Cold nights in the east and north
Calm, clear and dry nights followed the major change earlier in the week, and the unusually cold airmass for April was in no hurry to move on. These provided perfect conditions for widespread cold to very cold nights. Morning minima stayed from 4 to more than 8° below average in NSW, VIC and TAS and only began to warm in VIC and TAS yesterday.
On Friday 28 April, Sydney Observatory Hill's minimum was 10.2°, its lowest for April in 5 years, while Canberra's -1.8 was its coldest since 2013. In country NSW, it got down to -3.7° at Goulburn and -5.8 at Perisher Valley in the Snowy Mountains, the lowest in the nation.
On the same morning, though, the cold minima began to push north well into QLD. Hughenden, halfway between Mackay and Mt Isa and well into the tropics, had a low of 6.9°, 11.0 below normal and 1.2 below the previous record for April, while Blackall and Injune were both more than 10 below. Toowoomba's low of 4.2° was its coldest for April since 1999. Two surprising new low April minimum records were set in widely separated parts of coastal QLD. Seventeen Seventy, 70km SE of Gladstone, knocked 2.0° off its previous record in a 29-year history when the temperature dropped to 11.0°, while Middle Percy Island, 130km SE of Mackay, set a new record with 15.4°.
By yesterday morning, 29 April, the huge area of cold, dry air had pushed across all of QLD and the NT, even covering most of WA with below-normal overnight lows. In QLD, April low temperatures were broken at stations from the Central Coast and Highlands to the Gulf Country, including Burketown, Charters Towers and Mackay. The 11.2° at Mackay Met Office was the lowest in a 58-year history at 11.2° while 2.4 at Springsure was that town's lowest in 51 years of record-keeping. In the Northern Territory, Territory Grape, 140km NNW of Alice Springs, with a more modest 24-year history, had its coldest April morning on record at 4.9 while Troughton Island, a speck off the coast of the WA Kimberley 190km NW of Wyndham, equalled its record low April temperature of 22.3 in a 38-year history.
By this morning, the record-breaking cold air had retreated to the far north with new records at Cooktown and around the Gulf coast. Most noteworthy was Mt Isa, where a new record of 5.8 was set in the round half-century since that weather station opened. That is 12.6 below the normal minimum for the year.
Australian weather briefs
- Another cold change is currently tickling the underbelly of southern Australia, but this is much less aggressive than the last one. It moved through far southern WA today, bringing temperatures 5 to 10° lower than yesterday, and is expected to have the same effect in southern SA and NSW as well as all VIC and TAS. Not much rain with it, except on the perennially wet Tassie West Coast.
- The BoM believes SA will have a more normal winter this year than 2016, when successive storms pummeled the coast and brought disruption, damage and a whole-state power failure. This article from ABC News says why, and describes the preparations being made along the coast in case of similar weather in the future.
- Two cyclones NW of Australia are not expected to affect the continent. Tropical Cyclone Francis ran out of steam rapidly overnight, and went from Category 2 at 20.00WST yesterday to a tropical low at 08.00 this morning. Its remains are about 500km N of Broome heading west into the Indian Ocean. TC Greg developed rapidly into a Category 1 cyclone today and is expected to increase to Category 2 briefly tomorrow before passing close to the north of Cocos Island tomorrow evening as it heads due west. A small cyclone, its spread of gales is not great but Cocos Island is under a cyclone watch.
Climate outlook for Australia mostly dry and warm: The BoM has issued its seasonal outlook for May to July. It gives highest probability to a drier than average three months for most of the country except the tropical north and TAS, while daytime temperatures are likely to be above average, particularly in the southeast, but cooler than average in parts of the NT. Cooler than average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central Indian Ocean are expected to inhibit the development of northwest rainbands, while warmer than average SSTs in the central tropical Pacific Ocean are still raising the possibility of El Niño development.
The full outlook is here, and there's a good video summarising the whole lot in one quick package.