Visit Australia: all four seasons in one day
It was Paul Hogan that made a tourist boom with his famous, “chuck another shrimp on the barbie” campaign. Perhaps the headline above, “Visit Australia: all four seasons in one day” would get some interest—if you could predict the weather so accurately like the climate doomsayers believe they can. But, snowing on a bushfire is one for the books.
There are fires in NSW, a heatwave in south-east Queensland, the dust is still settling on Sydney and Canberra, and it snowed in Tasmania overnight. There has also been a bushfire emergency warning issued in the past few hours in Albany, Western Australia. Dean Narramore, meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology said it had been a very active 24 to 36 hours across much of Australia, especially the south east.
Fire, floods, dust and snow — how is this all happening at the same time?
“A main driver of that has actually been a really strong cold front that’s moved through the south-eastern states,” he said.
“Ahead of that it’s bringing in those hot, dry, gusty winds.
“That’s when we saw temperatures getting into the high 30s to low 40s across much of New South Wales.”
According to Mr Narramore it was also this strong front and associated winds that picked up dust through South Australia and western parts of New South Wales.
“That led to the very large dust storm we felt across many parts of New South Wales, even reaching coastal locations overnight and this morning,” he said.
“It brought wind damage through the Canberra area and also thick dust is now moving into southern Queensland.”
The front has not just kicked up dust, it has also fanned fires in New South Wales.
“Yesterday ahead of those fronts we had those really strong hot and gusty winds and a few fires unfortunately started to get going across northern New South Wales,” Mr Narramore said.
The hot, dry conditions have been perfect for fires to take off and get out of control. The end could be in sight for the northern New South Wales fires but they still have to face the change.
“The wind change is moving through there now so we could see some issues there,” Mr Narramore said.
“But thankfully behind this change, the winds should ease up later today and also the conditions should remain a little bit cooler as well.”
For those who have already had the front go though it is now a much cooler story.
“Behind that front, because it’s such a strong cold front, we’ve had the air coming from a long way south, almost from the South Pole and that’s introduced a much colder air mass to parts of Tasmania and Victoria,” Mr Narramore said.
There was actually snow falling on fires in Tasmania, which Mr Narramore agreed was “pretty crazy”.
What a difference a few weeks make … the first photo shows bushfire edging towards Miena’s Great Lake Hotel. Tasmania on January 24, while the second was taken in the same spot just last night!
“Some of those fires are still ongoing. But it’s good news; at least its cooler and wetter conditions are kind of easing the fire conditions down there.”
Mr Narramore said the snow got down to 900 meters overnight and the higher peaks got a few centimetres of snow. He said snow was a little unusual for February, but not record-breaking or unprecedented.
“We may see snow in Tasmania in February maybe every year or two.”
Why summer floods in the north but fires in the south?
According to Mr Narramore there are two main reasons behind summer’s contrasting weather.
“First off is the monsoon. In summer we get the monsoon, which is pretty much a clash of moist northerly winds coming down from the equator areas and then cooler southerly winds coming up across Australia overland,” he said.
“Where these two meet you get widespread areas of rain and storms.”
Which is why summer is the wet season up in that part of the world. The monsoon has been the cause of the widespread rainfall over north Queensland last week.
But down south it is a very different story.
“We have all the rising air across northern Australia and then the sinking, drying air over southern Australia,” Mr Narramore said.
“The high pressure systems that are normally sitting further north in winter, sit over the southern part of the country during summer.”
These high pressure systems prevent rain and draw warm air from over the continent down over southern Australia, fuelling heatwaves and fires.
Mr Narramore said the heat that we have seen through New South Wales over the past few days is now contracting into northern and eastern Queensland.
“So unfortunately for those recovering from the flooding over the last week or so will probably see some very hot and humid conditions.”
But generally around most of the country, it should be a really quiet few days, according to Mr Narramore.
“Really pleasant conditions, if you’re not looking for rain anyway, continuing across much of the country late this week and into the weekend.
“Even the weekend as well, we should see the warm start to build across many parts of southern Australia, but getting nowhere near as hot as we saw in January.”
In even better news, Mr Narramore said there could be a few more showers in Tasmania and that will hopefully ease the threat of fire.
Conditions look to remain pretty normal in Western Australia where Mr Narramore said there was almost no wet weather going on, which is typical for this time of year in Perth.
The Top End continues to miss out on widespread heavy rain with a quiet wet season to date.
But there is a cyclone brewing in the South Pacific, keeping wild weather watchers on their toes.
“In the coming days we have a category-two cyclone, Omar, around Vanuatu that will continue to hang around that area for the coming days and as we move into the weekend,” Mr Narramore said.
“We could see that cyclone move down towards the New Caledonia area into the weekend and early next week.”
There is no rest for the weather.