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Gusty showers over parts of southern and eastern VIC & SA with a cool southerly airstream. Showers over far west WA with upper level instability. High pressure keeps skies mostly clear elsewhere whilst drawing dry air towards WA.

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Late ShowerSydneyNSW

13.1°C

10°C
19°C

Showers EasingMelbourneVIC

10.9°C

10°C
15°C

SunnyBrisbaneQLD

16.8°C

10°C
23°C

Mostly CloudyPerthWA

17.2°C

14°C
27°C

Clearing ShowerAdelaideSA

13.4°C

10°C
19°C

Fog Then SunnyCanberraACT

2.8°C

-1°C
16°C

Mostly CloudyHobartTAS

5.4°C

7°C
13°C

SunnyDarwinNT

22.7°C

22°C
32°C

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Today, 3:40AM UTC

Shiseido Tahiti Surf Pro forecast

After an emotional mid-season cut, and an exciting final which saw Australian Jack Robinson claim the win at Margaret River, the World Surf League tour is off to the spectacular and monstrous waves at Teahupo'o in Tahiti, French Polynesia.  Teahupo'o was for a long time not even considered a wave, with the mass of the ocean folding over itself into deadly shallow reef. Even with the technological advancements in wave riding over the last 40 or so years, it barely remains a rideable wave to us mere mortals, which is why this is one of the most entertaining and jaw-dropping stop on the world tour.  Tahiti, being a volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, sees the ocean depth drop rapidly only a few kilometres offshore. This deep water proximity means that open ocean swells can march relatively uninterrupted into the fringing reefs that protect the clear, beautiful waters of the island's lagoons—popular spots for honeymoon snorkelling. Teahupo'o also benefits from more favourable local bathymetry and an optimal angling into the southeasterly trade winds, making it a spectacle of the world tour well worthy of a tune in.  Annotated figure depicting the location of Teahupo'o in Tahiti, as well as the prevailing southeasterly trades and the swell directions that provide surfable waves.  So, what’s the forecast looking like for this year's competition, which runs from this Wednesday 22nd to Friday 31st?  Starting this week, a deep low located about 4,500km east of New Zealand will start sending mid-to-long period southeasterly swell towards Tahiti. This swell should peak on Tuesday, with enough energy remaining at the start of the competition period to possibly get a day of heats going. Southeasterly swell can provide longer rides, but barrels less intensely with the waves peeling down the reef (rather than explosively folding onto it). Conditions will be good otherwise, with trade winds tending more east and possibly northeast, a more offshore direction across the reef.  Image showing GFS surface winds and Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP) on Sunday 19th with a deep low pressure system sending southeasterly swell to Tahiti.  As the southeasterly swell eases off into the late week (and winds turn more northerly and variable), organisers will look with hope towards the southwest with promise, and promise will deliver. A series of fronts crossing to the south of Australia and New Zealand this week will provide a sustained spells of reinforcing mid-to-long period southwesterly swell building from Friday 24th afternoon, extending into the weekend and the following week. From Saturday 25th, a consistent run of head-to-double-overhead high surf is expected across the reef, with generally favourable conditions making for excellent viewing. Another pulse of swell is expected around Tuesday 28th, with another possible pulse at the end of the competition period.  Image showing GFS surface winds and Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP) on Monday 20th with a series of low pressure systems and cold fronts sending southwesterly swell to Tahiti.  Image showing GFS surface winds and Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP) on Wednesday 22nd with a series of low pressure systems and cold fronts sending southwesterly swell to Tahiti.  It’s also important to note that French Polynesia sits to the east of the date line, so the first call of competition on Wednesday 22nd at 7am local time will be Thursday 23rd at 3am AEST. With days of competition usually running until 4 or 5pm local time (around midday in Australia), there will be plenty of action to catch back at home on the broadcast, without having to jet across the South Pacific to be there in person. Teahupo'o will also be the Olympic surfing site in late July and early August this year, nearly 16,000 kilometres around the globe from the host city of Paris.

18 May 2024, 4:36AM UTC

Go west. Life is warm there.

Or east if you want to ski. Perth, in southwest WA, is having its warmest start to May on record. With twelve consecutive days above 25.5°C (the average for the month is 22.3°C), it’s the warmest May streak in more than 125 years. It’s also been dry. A couple of days of rain at the very beginning of the month have been followed by persistently dry easterly winds north of a high pressure system that has also been keeping SA dry. Today is no exception, with a dry 29°C forecast.   Image: Observations from Perth from last Saturday 11th May to now, including temperature (red), rainfall (nil for all days since May 11th) and wind direction (arrows).     Image: Maximum temperatures (left) and maximum temperature anomalies (right) for the last week, showing the unseasonable warmth over WA and the contrast between west and east. From Bureau of Meteorology.    Meanwhile, further east over Tasmania, Victoria and NSW, the first significant snow of the season has fallen, with 5cm so far recorded at Perisher and light falls as low as about 1000 metres. Temperatures are averaging 3-8 degrees below average and gusty southerly winds are making it feel even colder, including for Sydney. With minimal heating time left for the day, many NSW and alpine Victorian locations are so far having their coldest day since last winter. Earlier, parts of Tasmania were colder than all of last winter. Mt Read’s -3.1°C was the coldest May temperature in over 20 years.  Meanwhile again, even further east over the pond, heavy snow warnings are in force for parts of Canterbury and Otago in southern New Zealand with 15cm-20cm expected to accumulate as low as 500 metres tonight. The ski-fields will be starting to bustle with the approaching season. But, if you’re cold, best to head west.       Image: Animation of forecast temperature at ~5000ft and MSLP between Friday 17th and Sunday 19th showing waves of cold air affecting southeastern Australia and southern New Zealand while Western Australia remains warm north of a high.        Header image: Forecast ECMWF (shading) and observed temperatures (numbers) just before 2pm AEST.

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18 May 2024, 2:56AM UTC

Sydney feeling no warmer than 10°C this afternoon

During the week, we've highlighted the wintry blast expected to impact the southeast this weekend, as detailed here and here. A vigorous cold front and a powerful southerly surge moving along the NSW coast are bringing a markedly cold Saturday. Significant wind gusts exceeding 80 km/h were observed this morning as the southerly surge moved up the NSW coast. Notable gusts included approximately 83 km/h in Sydney Harbour, the strongest since October last year, 91 km/h at Port Botany, and a whopping 100 km/h at Wattamolla, the strongest wind gust since October 2022. This sets the stage for the rest of the day, with wintry southerly winds persisting along the coast and nearby inland into the afternoon and evening.  Temperatures today in the Sydney Metropolitan area and central eastern/southern NSW will hover around the mid-teens (Fig. 1). However, brisk winds will make it feel much colder, with parts of Sydney Metropolitan expected to feel no warmer than 10°C for most of the remainder of the day, particularly along the coastal fringe and nearby inland where the winds are strongest. This makes today the coldest day in terms of apparent temperature or “feels-like” since last winter. Fig. 1. 2m temperatures at 12:30pm AEST in locations across central eastern NSW. Showers will clear and winds will gradually become drier overnight in Sydney on Sunday, leading to a cooler morning and a sunny but fresh afternoon to conclude the weekend. However, don't let your guard down, as another southerly surge on Monday 20th will bring back gusty southerly winds, showers, and chilly days persisting into mid-week, reminding us that winter is on the doorstep.

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14 May 2024, 3:01AM UTC

Can auroras affect aeroplanes?

Auroras lit up the skies on the weekend amid one of the strongest geomagnetic storms in years, but did this display impact aeroplanes and the aviation industry?  The spectacular exhibit was the aurora borealis/australis, or northern and southern lights seen in both hemispheres.      Images: Aurora Australis on Saturday, May 11 from Bendleby Ranges, SA (top), source: @bendlebyranges and Ricketts Point, Vic (bottom), source: @dayofthedreamer  These lights are typically only seen in the polar latitudes, but this weekend they were spotted in the Southern Hemisphere as far north as Mackay in Queensland. This was caused by the strongest solar flare and storm seen in over 20 years.  This auroral display was caused by a solar flare and multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which erupted from the sun over a few days last week. Charged particles were then carried from the sun to earth by a solar wind.   When these particles reached earth, they interacted with our planet’s magnetic field and were driven towards the magnetic poles.   In the upper layer of the atmosphere called the ionosphere (90km above the surface) the solar wind collides with oxygen and nitrogen in this layer and produces a colorful display.  The southern lights typically occur between 50 and 800km above the surface, well above the layer of atmosphere that planes typically fly in.   So, do they impact aviation despite occurring well above the flight level?   Yes, space weather events like this can impact aviation communications, navigation and surveillance systems. They can also increase the radiation exposure of aircraft in the air.       Images: Aurora Australis from Virgin plane cockpit on Saturday, May 11. Source: @shelbytillett  The charged particles caused by CMEs can modify the upper layer of earth's atmosphere called the ionosphere, which can impact our technology systems.   High frequency radio communication depends on the ionosphere reflecting radio waves back down to earth.  Satellite communication, navigation and surveillance rely on the transmission of signals through the ionosphere.   According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s space weather department, >Space weather events that modify the density and/or structure of the ionosphere can therefore significantly impact the performance of HF COM, SATCOM and SATNAV systems". While communication and navigation can be impacted by the modification of the ionosphere, the electricity network can also be impacted. The storms can induce currents in power lines, overheating transformers, which can potentially cause power outages.   The strongest geomagnetic storm ever recorded occurred during September 1859, called the Carrington Event. This event caused multiple fires of telegraph systems across Europe and North America.  There have been no reports of negative major impacts of this solar storm, it was merely a spectacular display that captivated people across the world.   Unfortunately, auroras are notoriously difficult to forecast as they need multiple factors to line up for these beautiful lights to occur.  Looking ahead, the sun is nearing its solar maximum, which means we could see more sunspots on the sun's surface this year. This could increase our chance of seeing more spectacular displays in the coming months.

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07 May 2024, 11:23PM UTC

How severe thunderstorms impact energy infrastructure

Earlier this year destructive thunderstorms and winds equivalent to a category two cyclone lashed Victoria, bending towers and toppling trees and poles.  So, how can thunderstorms damage energy infrastructure, and are these events getting worse?   This event occurred during mid-February 2024, when a strong cold front generated severe thunderstorms and localised wind gusts of 130km/h after a prolonged period of extreme heat. The image below shows a squall line around 1,500km long causing lightning across four states in February.  Image: Himawari-9 satellite image, lightning and radar on Tuesday, February 13 at 3pm AEDT.  The destructive winds were caused by microbursts, which bent towers and toppled trees and poles in Vic, leaving thousands without power.   Image: Damaged transmission towers at Anakie, Source: AAP  Microbursts are a localised column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm and is usually less than 4km wide. The cold, heavy air within this downdraft descends rapidly to the surface and then spreads out in all directions as it hits the ground. The image below shows how wind gusts are produced in thunderstorms.    Microbursts can be destructive and cause wind gusts above 100 km/h, which can be a risk for power infrastructure. The force applied to the structure is roughly proportional to the speed squared.  Fierce wind gusts from thunderstorms can:  Knock down trees, which can fall onto power lines  Topple poles  Knock out transmission towers.  Microbursts typically occur during the warmer months of the year and, unfortunately, they can develop rapidly and last for only a short period of time, making them difficult to predict and warn communities about.   Have these thunderstorm events become more severe in Victoria?   The severe thunderstorm season across southern Australia occurs during the warmer months of the year, between November and April.   While thunderstorms are more common across northern Australia, Qld, and NSW, they do occur frequently in the summer months. The map below shows the annual average lightning density in Vic between July 2014 and June 2023, with the most lightning occurring in the northeast high country each year.      Image: Weatherzone’s Total Lightning Network Annual lightning density mean between July 2014 and June 2023.  You can see in the map above that lightning is common to the north of Ballarat near Learmonth and Miners Rest, with the region seeing 37.7 pulses per year. The high country near Benalla and Whitfield recorded an average of 28.1 pulses, Thorpdale in Gippsland saw 24.5 pulses, and Melbourne only 8.2 pulses per year.    Research has shown that the warming climate is increasing the risk of heatwaves and bushfires, which can impact energy infrastructure. Unfortunately, it is unknown how global warming will affect thunderstorms and their associated destructive winds. To research climate change's impact on thunderstorms, we would need quality data that dates back well into history. Unfortunately, detecting lightning is a fairly new phenomena, so a solid climate base to compare data to is not currently existent.   According to the University of Melbourne researchers and Watt Clarity, ‘The evidence we do have suggests continued climate change may potentially increase the risk of extreme winds from thunderstorms. This is partly due to more moist and unstable air, which are essential for thunderstorms to form. We think these conditions could occur more often with climate change, in part because warmer air can hold more moisture.’   Indeed, much of Australia had an unusually stormy summer 2023/24, with Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane all seeing 5 to 6 extra storm days a season. The map below shows that an unusually high number of thunder days were seen over most of Qld, NSW, SA, Vic, the ACT and Tas during the summer of 2023/24 compared to the average of the most recent nine years.  Image: Thunder day anomalies for summer 2023-24 versus the average thunder days for the nation’s nine most recent summers (2014/15 to 2022/23). 

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