An eventful year of weather

John Stanfield’s photo of the Gilmore Creek in flood during the spring.

Tumut rainfall for the year was more than 250mm above the average, helped by the wettest September on record.

According to Bureau of Meteorology recorder Graham Garnett, his Simpson Street gauge received 1077.9mm of rain in 2016, compared to the average of 817.1mm.

High as it was, it’s well short of the 1956 record total of 1307.4.

The Bureau’s figures are somewhat diminished, given key statistics from 2012 and 2010 – two of Tumut’s wettest years – are incomplete.

Blowering Dam’s rain recording, for instance, registered 1499.5mm for 2010, though its still shy of its 1956 recording of 1556.8mm.

Either way, Tumut had a wet winter which turned into a saturated spring.

September was the standout month, when 191.2mm of rain fell in Tumut, according to the Bureau, leading to flooding and the spilling of Blowering Dam in October.

The September rain followed a damp winter, with more than 100mm being recorded in the three consecutive months of May (139.5mm), June (114.8mm) and July (12.5mm).

But things dried out in November, before storms in December returned some green to the area.

Adelong fared even better, recording 1133.7mm for the year, putting 2016 in the top five per cent of annual totals since records began in 1883, though, like Tumut, there are some gaps in the record.

Adelong’s September of 206.6mm was also its wettest. It was Adelong’s wettest year since 1974.

Batlow’s official record for 2016 is incomplete.

Nationally, it 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 2016 released yesterday.

Assistant Director Climate Information Services, Neil Plummer, said 2016 was an eventful year with significant climate drivers affecting the country’s weather.

“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. We had our warmest autumn on record partly due to a very strong 2015-16 El Niño,” Mr Plummer said.

“In May the El Niño broke down and the dry start was followed by record wet from May to September as a negative Indian Ocean Dipole developed, with ocean waters warming to the northwest of Australia.

Widespread, drought-breaking rains led to flooding in multiple states, and around Tumut.

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.

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 southeast.

In the Murray-Darling Basin, already wet soils and full rivers meant rain caused flooding in many areas throughout September and October.

Australia was warmer than average in 2016, with a national mean temperature 0.87°C above average, and it was the fourth-warmest year on record.

Sea surface temperatures around Australia were the warmest on record in 2016, and were 0.77°C above average.

The World Meteorological Organization figures have announced that 2016 is very likely to have been the warmest year on record for global mean temperatures.

Major weather events in 2016

  • Very large fires in northwest Tasmania during January and February following an extended dry period; about 123,800 ha burnt, mostly in remote areas
  • Significant flooding in Tasmania in January
  • Significant fires at the start of the year near Wye River on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, and in southwest Western Australia affecting Yarloop and Waroona
  • 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
  • Periods of flooding in inland New South Wales and northern and western Victoria during September and October
  • Supercell thunderstorms caused extensive damage across southeast Australia and parts of southeast Queensland during early November, with widespread reports of golf-ball sized hail
  • Severe thunderstorms and a tornado outbreak caused widespread damage in South Australia during late September

On November 21, lightning storms associated with a strong and gusty change ignited grassfires across northern Victoria, caused damage across parts of Victoria, and along with a high pollen count, triggered thousands of incidents of thunderstorm asthma.

  • 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.