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Today, 8:44AM UTC

Lessons from a cancelled marathon: Athletic events, heat and the effects of climate change

The cancellation of the Manitoba Marathon due to extreme heat may provide a case study for athletic event management in extreme weather. As researchers in kinesiology and recreation management, we took an interest in how the disruption was handled not only professionally, but also from a personal perspective: one of us (Shaelyn) was participating in the half marathon. The race was cancelled after it had started, with runners already an hour into the race. The result was ambiguity and confusion. Runners were left scratching their heads both during and after the race: wondering what they were supposed to do during the disruption, and pondering how the course shutdown was handled after the event. Hot road races may become more common. The climate crisis is expected to increase severe weather , which can have devastating consequences such as loss of life, injury and illness when people are unprepared. Even when lives are not lost, the negative experience of an emergency can have psychological consequences . Runners can train for heat, wear appropriate clothing and hydrate, but even these steps are often not sufficient to overcome the effects of heat . Exercising in heat and humidity poses a serious challenge to the body's ability to regulate body temperature and running in such conditions can significantly decrease performance and lead to health issues such as exhaustion and heat stroke. Managing the hazards posed by a changing climate will be necessary for all community event organizers going forward. Shaelyn's first-person account is helpful in understanding what happened on the course during the cancelled Manitoba Marathon. Here is her experience: Like other runners, I had trained in an extremely cold winter and spring and was not prepared for a hot run in the record high temperatures that were forecast for this late June race. Event representatives urged runners to stay hydrated and to adjust their goal given the anticipated heat . I kept an eye on my email for an adjusted start time or cancellation. With no news, I headed to the start line. Once started, it didn't take me long to feel the heat of the day but volunteers did a great job of keeping us hydrated. However, I could not escape the heat; several miles in, my heart rate was above the ideal range. With eight kilometres left, a volunteer told us the course was closed and that we could keep running if we wanted to, which left me confused. Was the course really closed? Should I trust one volunteer? If the course was closed, what were my options? The course was not physically closed and the runners around me were still running. Aware of no alternative way of getting back other than on my own two feet, I kept running. This response is not surprising. When faced with a crisis, the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication manual put forward by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control presents four ways people process information: When I crossed the finish line, there was no indication the course had closed. It wasn't until I listened to the news that I was able to confirm the closure. After recovering, I read Twitter threads from participants. My sense of confusion and uncertainty was not unique . Conflicting information circulated about water station closures and traffic no longer being controlled. Shutting down the course was understandable to protect the safety of runners. However, participants may have been hesitant to stop considering they had likely trained for months, and may have been using the race to try to meet a goal or qualify for another race. Effective communication reduces injury and loss-of-life during an emergency by providing the public with information to make good choices . A crisis can be the catalyst for organizations to build trust with their community or it can harm the relationship, depending on the strategy used . Race organizers should provide runners with essential information regardless of the specific hazard. Runners should have advance knowledge of what to expect in case of race disruption or rerouting prior to setting off on the course. This way, whether there is a weather disruption, act of violence or other potentially catastrophic event, racers will be prepared to react. Complicating the situation is the organizational structure of many events. Volunteers are essential for delivering many community events. While they bring skills and knowledge, they may not have specific training in emergency management nor be sufficiently prepared to help event participants navigate the challenges posed during a major disruption. Organization preparedness should include ensuring volunteer readiness to respond during an emergency. Events like the Manitoba Marathon provide runners with the opportunity to reach a goal that took months of training. This year though, many runners hobbled away from the event with mixed feelings about whether the event should have gone ahead, and if so, how the situation should have been managed. As record high temperatures continue across the world this summer , investment in emergency preparedness is necessary to ensure communities can stay safe while sharing meaningful experiences together.

Today, 7:17AM UTC

Britain's notoriously wet and cold climate is changing - you won't like what replaces it

The UK had the driest start to a year since the 1970s in 2022, with large parts of southern England receiving less than 50% of their normal winter rainfall. On top of that, southern England recently received just 17% of its average rainfall for July, in what was the country's driest since 1935 . How the atmosphere circulates moisture is incredibly complex and so there is huge variability in rainfall from year to year. This makes it very difficult to conclude trends from past observations. Temperature trends, meanwhile, are more straightforward: increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have raised average temperatures and made dry periods in Britain drier, as hotter weather evaporates more water. Short and intense rainfall , which does not replenish parched soils, rivers and aquifers as well as gentler, longer showers, is also increasingly common as warmer air can hold more moisture. Although some water companies have enacted hosepipe bans to conserve water in the worst-affected areas, the Environment Agency has yet to declare an official water supply drought. Reservoir levels were healthy entering 2022, having been replenished in the preceding autumn, but some in southwest England are now less than half full . Farmers across southeast England have been reeling from an agricultural drought (when levels of moisture in the soil are low enough to affect crop production) since spring. Warmer than average summer temperatures, plus a heatwave during which temperatures reached 40?C for the first time in the UK, have further dried out the soil. At the time of writing, many rivers across southern England are exceptionally low . The situation could significantly worsen if a dry autumn or winter follows. Rivers with underlying acquifiers in southern England (such as chalk streams ) can take months to respond to changes in rainfall. Projections by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology suggest that flows will remain below average in these groundwater-fed rivers over autumn and potentially beyond. Yet, the UK retains its reputation for being a rainy country. A survey titled The Great British Rain Paradox conducted in 2020 showed that 77% of the British public agreed with this sentiment. But with most of the UK forecast to have hotter and drier summers, it's no longer as simple as that. The UK has experienced regular periods of drought in the past, including the last official drought in 2018-19. The National Infrastructure Commission, which advises the government, warned then that the UK must do more to prepare for water shortages . The Environment Agency estimates that water demand may outstrip supply across southern England in as short a timescale as 20 years if the country does not adapt to its new climate by building reservoirs and desalination plants. So what does that new climate look like? The latest set of simulations project hotter and drier summers plus warmer and wetter winters, with larger changes in summer compared to winter rainfall. Prolonged periods of below average river and groundwater levels are projected to become more severe. Summer droughts are likely to affect the entire country, while multi-year droughts are more likely across southern England. There will be an increased risk of cascading hazards in future too, such as when a flood quickly follows a drought, spoiling crops and damaging infrastructure. Record rainfall in spring 2012 suddenly ended a drought which had begun in 2010, causing flash floods which affected more than 4,000 properties. How low rivers and public water supplies recede each summer will depend on rainfall in autumn and spring. There is less agreement between climate model simulations on how rainfall patterns will change in these seasons, which is when aquifers are usually replenished. Water demand will add an additional strain on these sources as the population grows, particularly as severe heatwaves are set to become much more common . Severe droughts in the UK's past have always included one or more dry winters , such as 1975-76 , 1988-93 and 2010-12 . The severity of future droughts will be determined by how sequences of dry seasons interact. Research has shown that the probability of a dry winter and spring being followed by an extremely hot summer, like the one the UK is experiencing in 2022, is now at least five times more likely compared with the 1970s. A drier than average winter is much more likely to be followed by a dry summer too. Although winters are projected to become wetter on average, scientists aren't sure how the sequencing of dry seasons is changing. This is due to uncertainty around the influence of climate change on atmospheric circulation, such as the position and strength of the jet stream - a major driver of heatwaves and dry weather in the UK. Where the rain ends up falling also matters. The northwest of the UK, including Northern Ireland, receives more rain than the southeast. So a wet winter nationally could still mean drier than average conditions in the southeast. Water companies cannot discount the possibility of consecutive dry winters and the potential for three consecutive dry winters are particular concern. This was narrowly avoided in the 2010-2012 drought, but research has revealed that continued dry conditions in 2012 would have meant critically low river flows across southern England. Water companies must develop regional plans for transferring water to meet public need and boost efficiency in homes and businesses through smart metering and fixing leaky pipes . To prepare for a drier future, the UK must reckon with the ways drought will make food production , biodiversity conservation and even electricity generation (as a result of cooling water shortages and reduced hydro-electricity) more difficult. Droughts will have major implications for the country's national food strategy, its nature recovery targets and - critically - progress towards net zero emissions, which will be essential for bringing extreme weather under control. Wilson Chan receives funding from NERC through the SCENARIO DTP with support from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Anglian Water. Nigel Arnell and Ted Shepherd do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Today, 5:36AM UTC

Perth on ice as polar air hits WA

Even the Little Penguins at Perth Zoo would be reaching for a scarf today, with the city shivering through one of its coldest days so far this year. A large pool of icy air from the Southern Ocean is spreading over southwestern Australia today in the wake of a cold front. While cold fronts are normal in Perth at this time of year, the air behind this system is unusually cold, even for the middle of winter. Amid this blast of piercing polar air, the temperature at Perth’s main weather station was sitting on just 9ºC at midday on Tuesday. This is equal to the city’s average overnight minimum temperature at this time of year and a whopping 9ºC below its average August maximum temperature. Image: Perth's temperature and rainfall observations from Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon. Nearby, it has been even more bitterly cold at Bickley today, with the mercury only sitting on 7.8ºC at midday and wind chill making it feel more like 4ºC. If Perth fails to reach 14.2ºC before 9am on Wednesday, this will have been the city’s coldest day so far this year. However, the city’s all-time record low maximum temperature of 8.8ºC from June 26, 1956 will not be challenged.


Weather in Business


11 Jul 2022, 3:11AM UTC

Record month for wind power in Australia's National Electricity Market

New data shows June was one of the best ever months for renewable energy in Australia’s National Electricity Market and a record-breaking month for wind power. June 2022 was a relatively dry and cool month for much of eastern and southeastern Australia, with frequent periods of strong winds and clear skies. NSW registered its driest June since 1986, while Sydney and Brisbane had their sunniest June since 2004. This abundance of sunshine and wind created an ideal month for renewable energy generation in the National Electricity Market (NEM). The combined generation of solar (rooftop and utility), wind and hydropower across the NEM in June 2022 was 5,969 Gigawatt hours (GWh). This is the third highest monthly volume of renewable energy generation in the NEM in records dating back to 1998. Wind power Wind power had a record-breaking month in the NEM, with 2,527 GWh of generation in June 2022 beating the previous monthly record of 2472 GWh from July 2021. Victoria also set a new record for wind power in June this year, with 1,073 GWh easily surpassing the state’s previous record of 922 GWh from July 2021. Solar Power Solar power also had a strong month, with rooftop generation in June outperforming May 2022, despite May usually being the sunnier month. This was the first year on record where June rooftop solar generated more power than May. Utility solar also continued to see strong growth, producing 589 GWh in the NEM during June 2022, which was a big step up from 445 GWh in June 2021. Hydropower While June was a very dry month for large areas of eastern and southeastern Australia, an abundance of rain earlier in the year ensured that there was plenty of water available for hydropower. The NEM received 1,885 GWh of electricity from hydropower in June 2022, which was the 8th highest monthly value in 283 months of records dating back to 1998. The combination of favourable weather and continued growth in the sector caused June 2022 to be an exceptional, and in some cases record-breaking month for renewable energy in the NEM.


21 Jun 2022, 3:53AM UTC

La Nina floods make NSW ports too fresh for ships

La Niña has had a surprising impact on shipping operations in NSW this year, with increased freshwater outflows from flooded rivers affecting the behavior of ships entering some ports. Ships entering tidal ports in NSW are affected by local weather conditions, tides and waves, which can all affect a vessel’s ability to enter and operate safely within a port. One of the important things to consider when allowing larger vessels to enter NSW ports is the tide, which needs to be high enough to allow deep drafted vessels to enter, navigate and exit a port safely. This year, the window of time where water levels are high enough for ships to enter some NSW ports has been reduced by enhanced freshwater inflows from heavy rain and flooding. Image: Rainfall between January and May 2022 was in the top 10 percent of historical records for most of eastern NSW, with some areas receiving their highest rainfall on record for this period. Source: Bureau of Meteorology Freshwater is less dense than salt water, which allows ships to sit lower in the water. The prolific flooding seen in parts of eastern NSW earlier this year caused huge injections of freshwater into the coastal zone, which decreased salinity and affected shipping operations. According to Philip Perkins, Meteorologist and Sales Executive of Ports, Offshore and Safety at Weatherzone, "port users and operators at river-based terminals have been impacted by summer and autumn rainfall. “During high river flows water salinity is reduced. This means vessels can behave differently, resulting in elevated risk to vessels even at berth. Even when secured properly, berthed vessels can be impacted by passing traffic in the terminal.’’ In addition to the safety of ships, decreased salinity at river-based terminals can also reduce the window of time where larger vessels can enter these ports. In some cases, this may force ships to wait for the next high tide before entering or departing the port. Fortunately, river levels and discharge rates have now returned to more normal levels in eastern NSW. However, the ongoing influence of La Niña and a developing negative Indian Ocean Dipole increases the risk of more flooding in the months ahead. With the ground still holding a lot of water, any periods of heavy rain this winter and spring are likely to cause flooding, which may have immediate impacts on shipping operations.