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Australia's cold, wet winter isn't threatening any records, Bureau of Meteorology says

Friday July 30, 2021 - 22:06 EST
ABC image
It may have felt pretty cold this year, but the data suggests we are just not as hardened to the chill as we used to be. - ABC

It feels like it has been one icy blast of wet and wild conditions after another this winter, but is it really that cold and wet or have we just been spoiled by so many mild winters?


Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Blair Trewin was not quite so rude as to call us all "soft", but he did stress that this kind of weather is not particularly unusual.

Cold front after cold front hitting the mainland used to be a regular winter occurrence before the subtropical high pressure ridge began to strengthen.

"In a lot of ways the weather patterns we've seen in the last few weeks have been quite typical weather patterns historically," Dr Trewin said.

"The last few years we have had a lot of winters where the subtropical high has been stronger and further south than its usual winter position, and that's pushed a lot of cold fronts south of the Australian continent."

The strengthening of the sub tropical ridge has been linked to climate change.

[winter temps data wrapper]"The last 10 to 15 years we have had a lot of warm winters, particularly daytime temperatures," Dr Trewin said.

"To some extent people's expectations shift when you have a long-term trend and when you go back to something closer to long-term historical averages, it can come as a bit of a shock."

But that's not to say there haven't been cold days ? Canberrans shivered through six single-digit days this month, which Dr Trewin said was cooler than the long-term average.

Wet, but not that wet

Dr Trewin says June and July are going to come in as the third or fourth wettest of the century for NSW, Victoria and the Murray Darling Basin, but totals are still expected to be lower than 2016 and well outside the top 10 in all those regions.

Perth, meanwhile, had its wettest July in 20 years, with more than 260mm of rainfall, but Dr Trewin said months with 200mm or more were more or less annual events up until 1980.

Western Australian Water Minister Dave Kelly said people had been surprised by the totals. 

"They hadn't seen a July like this for a while," he said.

"But what a lot of people don't realise is that July's rainfall follows on from a very dry June, and so year-to-date Perth rainfall has only been a little bit over the long-term average."

[embed winter rainfall datawrapper]Declining rainfall is a well established trend in south-west WA.

Wet conditions are expected to continue in the east over the next few months thanks to the recently announced negative IOD, but below median rainfall is expected in the west.

What about climate change?

You don't need to look hard to find warmer-than-average temperatures this season.

"If you look nationally, June and July are going to come in significantly above average for temperatures, and that's driven especially by what's happening in the northern half of the country," Dr Trewin said.

Last week the Northern Territory broke its July record and WA they notched up the second highest July temperature ever recorded Australia.

It continues to be warm up north, with the heat now pushing into Queensland.

The northern hemisphere has seen record-breaking heatwaves, fires and floods.

But over the weekend a series of cold fronts are set to sweep across the south of the country bringing, more wet and wintry conditions. 

The latest BOM outlook suggests above average daytime temperatures are likely for southern Victoria, Tasmania and the north of the country over the next three months.

Average to below average temperatures are likely thorough the centre.


© ABC 2021

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