Last year was a year of extreme weather events, wetter than average overall and the fourth-warmest on record for Australia, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Climate Statement released today.
Climate Information Services assistant director Neil Plummer said 2016 was an “eventful year” with significant climate drivers affecting the country’s weather.
Individual states across the country had local weather records broken — 2016 was the warmest year on record for Sydney, recording the most days above 25C on record, while parts of South Australia recorded its wettest year.
“The year started off very warm and dry, with bushfires in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia, and a nation-wide heatwave from late February to mid-March,” Mr Plummer said.
“We had our warmest autumn on record partly due to a very strong 2015-16 El Nino.
Widespread, drought-breaking rains led to flooding in multiple states. Even northern Australia saw widespread rainfall, during what is usually the dry season, greening regions that had been in drought for several years.”
For Australia as a whole, annual rainfall was 17 per cent above average.
Australia was also warmer than average, with a national mean temperature 0.87C above the norm. Sea surface temperatures were the warmest on record, 0.77C above average.
The top end experienced an unusually wet dry season from May to September, while 2016 was the wettest year on record for parts of South Australia.
The World Meteorological Organization figures showed 2016 was very likely to have been the warmest year on record for global mean temperatures.
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Notable events during the wet period included an east coast low in June, causing flooding down the east coast of Australia to Tasmania, and damaging coastal erosion in New South Wales. There were also significant storm and wind events which affected the south-east.
Northwest Tasmania saw very large fires during January and February following an extended dry period. About 123,800 hectares of land was burnt, affecting wildlife and Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. Tasmania also experienced significant flooding in January.
An east coast low caused major coastal flooding and erosion in New South Wales in early June, with flooding also affecting Victoria and large areas of Tasmania.
Flooding occurred from June to September in western, central and southern Queensland following the state’s second-wettest winter on record.
Supercell thunderstorms caused extensive damage across south-east Australia and parts of south-east Queensland during early November, with widespread reports of golf-ball sized hail.
In the Murray-Darling Basin, already wet soils and full rivers meant rain caused flooding in many areas throughout September and October.
A tropical low at the end of the year brought exceptional December rainfall to a number of regions between the northwest of Australia and the southeast, with some flooding and flash flooding resulting in the Kimberley, around Uluru in Central Australia, and around Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart.