Fairfax Media Network

Weather News

Sydney weather: Winter of 1836 remembered, the day it snowed in the Harbour City

By Nick Sas, Friday May 11, 2018 - 17:24 EST
ABC image
It's something you don't see everyday: a meteorological table with "snow" for Sydney. - ABC

New South Wales' central west this morning woke to a dusting of snow — the first of 2018 — and while the white stuff seldom falls in Sydney, it has happened once before.

As the Harbour City shivered through its first taste of the cold weather last night and this morning, newspaper clippings from more than 180 years ago reveal today is, well, nothing.

Sunny Sydney and the sands of Bondi Beach have, in fact, once — and only once — been covered in snow.

During the "icy winter" of 1836, the thousands of convicts held in Hyde Park — and the British settlers in the then 48-year-old colonial outpost called Sydney — awoke to snow "nearly an inch deep" on June 28.

"About seven o'clock in the morning a drifting fall covered the streets," The Sydney Herald reported at the time.

"A razor-keen wind from the west blew pretty strongly at the time and altogether, it was the most English like winter morning … ever experienced."



Its rival paper, The Sydney Monitor, said "we believe snow was never seen in Sydney before the previous night".

"The weather was cold, but not more so than we have often felt it before," the paper opined, obviously unaware that it doesn't get much colder than that.

The meteorological table in The Sydney Herald recorded that on the morning of the snow (June 28, 1836) revealed the temperature dropped to 3 degrees Celsius (or 38 degrees Fahrenheit).



Overnight snow dump in NSW

This year, snow has come much earlier than expected, with an overnight dump in all major ski resorts and a dusting around Orange and Oberon.

Apple farmer Graham Eastwood, from Nashdale in the central west, said he had not seen so much of the white stuff at his property for 20 years.

"I'm a bit surprised. I thought we might get a little bit but we got full cover," he said.

"All the cars are covered, it's draped over the roofs, all the trees are covered in snow."



Carol Thornton owns Mt Canobolas Cabins, and said it was beautiful to see the snow.

"A winter wonderland at this time of year in Orange, it was just marvellous. It just looks surreal — like a European Christmas card," she said.

"Lots of people want to come out here and hope to find snow, so it's good for business."

James Brennan has just moved to Orange, and said it was the first time he had seen snow.

"It's absolutely awesome. It's so much colder than I thought, but absolutely loving it," he said.

"I came from Port Macquarie where is doesn't snow at all — completely different and I'm loving it."

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is forecasting snow at places above 1,300 metres on the mid-north coast and the Barrington tops region.

But forecaster Anita Titmarsh said it was unlikely the snow would last into the weekend.

"We're expecting this snow to continue during the first half of the day," Ms Titmarsh said.

"Then we expect this cold air mass that the snow is coming from to move further east and push off into the Tasman (sea)."

"As the weekend goes on, I expect conditions to warm up and become a bit drier."



Could it ever snow in Sydney again?

According to ABC News weatherman and meteorologist Graham Creed, snow in Sydney would be "highly unlikely, but not impossible".

"You would need a strong front early in the morning after a cold night," he said.

"And some showers or thunderstorms behind the change that were able to draw cold air and snow down towards the ground, so that the snow does not melt on the way down."

But don't go buying any sleds and toboggans any time soon — snow in the Sydney CBD in 2018 is about as likely as Benji Marshall switching to the AFL.

"The potential for a repeat looks extremely limited due to the consistently increasing monthly mean temperatures of recent decades, especially closer to the coast," Creed said.

Creed said though there was conjecture over whether the snow was actually snow — not just hail — the fact that the early settlers were Europeans, who were familiar with snow, suggested the accounts were true.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
National Nine News
News Limited

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Why lightning, one of the most deadly weather phenomena, will never be seen in a forecast

21:00 EDT

It's one of the world's most dangerous weather phenomena, but you will never hear the word "lightning" mentioned in a forecast.

BoM predicts more storms as Penrith hit with one month's rain in half an hour

13:51 EDT

The heavens opened hard and fast in western Sydney last night, with some areas receiving a month's worth of rain in half an hour.

Grazier's heartbreak watching rain pass him by

10:50 EDT

As the crow flies, pastoralists Lachlan Gall and Brendan Cullen live about 100 kilometres apart in the far west of New South Wales.