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2020 weather in perspective

In 2020 Alice Springs experienced its hottest ever November and its coolest December in 20 years.

These measures form part of the annual climate picture, released by the Bureau of Meteorology today.

Nationally 2020 was fourth-warmest year on record, while in the Northern Territory it was fifth warmest.

The annual national mean temperature was 1.15 °C above average; in the NT it was 1.27 °C above average.

The NT’s maximum, minimum and mean temperatures were all above average – the fifth-, second- and fifth-warmest respectively, since records commenced in 1910.

Rainfall for the year across the Territory was marginally below the long-term average, with only four months recording above average totals during the year.

In Alice Springs (with measurements recorded at the airport) total annual rainfall for Alice Springs Airport was 245.0 mm, which is 87% of the long-term average of 282.3 mm.

The annual mean daily maximum temperature for Alice Springs Airport was 30.2 °C, which is 1.3 °C above the long-term average of 28.9 °C.

The warmest day was 43.7 °C on 28 November, and the coolest day was on 5 October when the temperature reached 13.0 °C.

We had 115 days of 35 °C or more in 2020, compared to the annual record of 137, and long-term average of 92 such days; the November total of 25 such days was the highest on record for that month.

The annual mean daily minimum temperature for Alice Springs Airport was 14.2 °C, which is 1.0 °C above the long-term average of 13.2 °C.

The coldest morning in 2020 was -0.9 °C on 28 June, and the warmest morning was on 10 January, when the minimum temperature was 31.0 °C.

There were 16 sub-zero nights, slightly up on the long-term average of 13.

Nationally, both mean annual maximum and minimum temperatures were above average for all States and the NT.

Warmth was persistent throughout the year, with 6 of 12 months placing in the ten warmest on record for each of mean, maximum, and minimum temperatures for their respective months.

The early part of the year will always be remembered for the extreme heat and widespread bushfires in eastern Australia .

Heatwaves also affected large parts of southeastern and eastern Australia in November.

The year commenced with much of Australia affected by drought but nationally-averaged rainfall was 4% above average for the year at 483.4 mm.

State by state the picture varied: New South Wales, the north and east of Western Australia, and much of the Northern Territory had above average rainfall, while it was below average for some parts, including the west of Western Australia, southeastern Queensland, and western Tasmania.

Southern Murray–Darling Basin water storages saw significant increases during 2020, but in the northern Basin water storage levels remained low.

Flooding affected eastern Australia during February and March, particularly through Queensland.

La Niña was declared in September, reaching moderate strength by the end of the year.


Source: Annual climate statement 2020, and the NT summaries, wrap-up prepared by Kieran Finnane.


Image: A twilight in April 2020 in the hills on the east side of town. Photo by Fiona Walsh.


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