This month’s release of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Climate Statement confirms the dominant influence of El Niño on Australia’s climate during 2015, with warmer than average temperatures recorded across the country.
Rainfall was well below average in southwest Western Australia, southeast South Australia, western to central Victoria, much of Tasmania and a large area of inland Queensland.
Acting Assistant Director for Climate Information Services, Dr Scott Power, said temperatures ranked as the fifth warmest on record for Australia in 2015.
“The national mean temperature was 0.83°C above average, with a number of notable heatwaves during the year and record-breaking temperatures from October to December”.
Dr Power said the Bureau declared an El Niño in early May and it went on to develop into the most significant El Nino in nearly two decades, ranking alongside the El Niños of 1997–98 and 1982–83.
Long-term drought in Queensland continued, following three successive poor wet-seasons, and a slow start to the 2015–16 wet season.
Drought areas increased through Victoria, South Australia and southwest Western Australia throughout 2015.
Other significant climate facts in 2015 include:
- For Australia as a whole, rainfall was 5% below average for the year, at 443.7 mm.
- January was wetter than average for large areas, but it was drier than average across the country for most of the year, with a notably warm and dry end to the year.
- September 2015 was the third-driest September on record nationally.
- Seven tropical cyclones occurred during 2015: Lam, Marcia, Olwyn, Nathan, Ikola, Quang, and Racquel. Cyclone Marcia was the strongest at landfall (as category 5, near Yeppoon, on 20 February).
- Severe thunderstorms caused widespread damage in Melbourne on 28 February.
- A record autumn hot spell occurred across large parts of northern and central Australia during March.
- An East Coast Low between 20 and 23 April caused severe weather and flooding throughout the Sydney, Hunter and Central Coast regions of New South Wales.
- A significant cold outbreak occurred over south-eastern Australia between 11 and 17 July, with snow falling on the Great Dividing Range in southern Queensland.
- Significant bushfires occurred in Sampson Flat (SA) in January, Lancefield (Vic.) and Port Lincoln (SA) in October, Esperance (WA) in mid-November, Pinery (SA) in late November, and near Lorne (Vic.) in late December.
- A tornado caused significant damage in the southern suburbs of Sydney on 16 December.
Nationally, Australian temperatures have warmed approximately one degree Celsius since 1950, consistent with global climate trends. According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2015 is almost certain to be the warmest year on record globally.