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Queensland locations break August temperature records, earlier wet season on the cards

By Sharnie Kim and Kier Shorey, Friday August 21, 2020 - 15:27 EST
ABC image
Cooktown had its warmest August day in 146 years. - ABC

Parts of Queensland have broken August temperature records and much of the state is in for a warmer and wetter spring than average, but the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says it is too early to tell if it will be a scorching summer.

Mareeba and Cooktown in Far North Queensland and Yeppoon in Central Queensland had their hottest August day in decades this week.

Meteorologist Felim Hanniffy said it was due to a ridge of high pressure along the east coast, and northerly winds preceding a trough approaching from the west.

"Mareeba hit 34 degrees, which is actually the warmest August day in over 68 years," he said.

"Cooktown, the airport site only goes back 20 years but when you take in a couple of sites, 34.6 was actually their hottest August temperature for over 146 years."

Cooktown’s weather records only date back 146 years to 1874.

The temperatures for the two sites were about eight degrees Celsius above average for the time of year.

The mercury hit 30.7C in Yeppoon on Wednesday, making it the hottest August day since 2000, when it reached 30.1C.

No more records were expected to fall in the coming days, but conditions were expected to remain warmer than average, with elevated fire danger across most of the state.

'Not good news'

Forecaster Kimba Wong said the record temperatures aligned with global warming trends.

"The Bureau and CSIRO's State of the Climate report says Australia can expect to see more extremely hot days in the future as our climate continues to warm," she said.

"So I guess it's something we should maybe expect to happen more and more often, which is not particularly good news."

She said North Queensland could expect a warmer than average spring.

"Across the far north of Queensland there is an 80 per cent or higher chance of exceeding the median maximum temperature," Ms Wong said.

"For October to December it's a similar story — maybe slightly less of a signal there, but still above a 70 per cent chance of exceeding the median maximum temperature across most of the tropical north."

Eastern and central Australia were forecast to have more rainfall than average between September and November.

Chance of earlier, rainier wet season

This week the BOM declared a La Nina alert, which is typically associated with more rainfall, heightened risk of cyclones and cooler daytime temperatures.

It said the odds of a La Nina in the coming months had increased to a 70 per cent chance — about three times more likely than normal, in other words.

But Ms Wong said how the weather played out would depend on other climate drivers.

"The La Nina generally tends to be an earlier onset of the wet season, a wetter wet season, and potentially more cyclones than you would normally get," she said.

"The north still looks to be quite a high chance of above average maximum temperatures coming into summer.

"I'm not too sure what happens beyond then, but it seems to be in line with longer-term projections of continuing to warm."


© ABC 2020

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