Australian Weather

Source: The Age

Chin up. It's not as cold as you think

By KERRY TAYLOR - Published Tuesday 7 July 1998

Melbourne in winter. Sigh! Just how cold, how grey and how wet can it get?

Well, stop whining. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, it is often both colder and wetter in Melbourne at this time of year.

June temperatures are averaging above normal, according to the bureau. In the city, the average minimum temperature for the month was 7.7 degrees _ that's half a degree above normal June minimum temperatures, which average a cool 7.2 degrees. Maximums reach 14.7 degrees on average for the first month of the winter season. The June average is usually only 14.3 degrees.

The city had 12 days of wet weather with a total rainfall of 51millimetresjust 8millimetres above the average June rainfall.

In comparison, extraordinary rainfalls were measured in East Gippsland during the recent flooding.

The deluge gave totals of 374 millimetres at Club Terrace and 365 millimetres at Cabbage Tree, both towns in the East Gippsland region.

These figures boost the rainfalls between 22June and 24June to the second-heaviest on record, according to the Bureau.

Wet Melbourne days are set to increase over the next two months, according to the National Climate Centre.

``The atmosphere is entering a new phase in the wake of the recent El Nino event,'' said the centre's head, Ms Mary Voice.

Evidence of the La Nina event, the opposite of El Nino, which refers to the extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, has been mounting in recent months.

Ocean temperatures in the central Pacific have cooled rapidly and this increases the chance of above-average rains in some parts of southern Australia, including Melbourne, the National Climate Centre said.

Showers, with maximums reaching 12 and 13 degrees have been forecast for the rest of the week.

The highs and lows of the summer that was

By CAROLYN WEBB - Published Friday 27 February 1998

SUMMER is drawing to a close. It's time to put away the cossie, lock the holiday house, shelve the exercise program and switch off the air conditioner.

And time to look back on the summer that was. Last spring, forecasters and media commentators predicted the 1997-98 summer, courtesy of El Nino, would result in lower rainfall, depleted water supplies and increased danger of another fire like 1983's Ash Wednesday.

December rainfall was way below average across the state. In Melbourne, only 7.2 millimetres fell compared to a 58.1 mm average. And, in early January, tinder-dry forest in the Alpine National Park in Gippsland fuelled the fire that burnt more than 30,000 hectares.

There is no doubt that the El Nino phenomenon caused drier weather in eastern Australia. But it might have run its course. The head of the Bureau of Meteorology's national climate centre, Terry Hart, said early this month that heavy rainfall across far nothern Australia during January and more normal Pacific Ocean temperatures confirmed the declining influence of El Nino over Australia.

Melbourne's rainfall in January (59.4 mm) and February (59.6 mm so far) has been higher than the respective averages of 47.1 mm and 45.8mm, bringing the total amount of rain that has fallen so far this summer to 126mm, just below the average of 131mm.

The effects of the state's 12-month drought will take longer to get over. East Gippsland residents still face a near-critical water shortage. People at Bairnsdale, Paynesville, Lindenow, Swifts Creek, Mallacoota and Bruthen have water restrictions and Cann River will have them soon.

Bairnsdale's Mitchell River is flowing at a rate of 38 megalitres a day. This time of year it's usually 100 megalitres a day.

Melbourne Water general manager (water), Grant Wilson, said Melbourne had had its second-driest summer on record in terms of water flow from Melbourne's catchments. But metropolitan water consumption had been lower than expected in a dry season.

Between 1 December, 1997, and 24 February 1998, consumption fell to 154,839 megalitres from 162,630 megalitres over the same period 12 months ago. Why? Because of people had heeded messages to save water and the Government's new user-pays water scheme.

Melbourne's reservoirs are now at 65.3 per cent capacity, well down from 88.4 per cent capacity at the same time last year.

This Melbourne summer has not been particularly hot, with the city having been spared a run of "scorchers". We only experienced two summer days over 40 degrees, the first being 17 January (41.6 degrees) and the second yesterday, when it reached a searing 42.3 degrees at 4.25pm. It was in fact the hottest Melbourne day since Ash Wednesday on 16 February 1983, when the 43-degree heat set Victoria aflame.

The city's average maximum temperatures have been slightly warmer - an average maximum of 24.9 degrees in December compared to the month's average of 24.1 degrees; 27.2 degrees in January compared to the average 25.9 degrees, and as of Thursday, a mean average this month of 27.4 degrees compared to February median temperature of 26 degrees.

But the summer of 1997-98 was the most tragic for beachgoers. Surf Life Saving Victoria spokesman, Tim Gentle, said 16 people have drowned at Victorian beaches so far this summer, the most since beach patrols began in 1947.

On the positive side, lifesavers have performed 811 rescues since the season began on 29 November. By this time last year, they had clocked up 1386 rescues. Volunteer lifesavers hang up their caps and Speedos and cease their weekend and public holiday patrols on Easter Monday, 13 April.

The owner of the Charmaine's ice-cream parlor chain, David Wilson, said it had been an "up and down" summer for ice-cream vendors. Sales were down compared to last year, said Wilson, because last year the city had more 25 to 30 degree days and more balmy nights, which made for more ice cream sales.

But the regional general manager of Carrier Air Conditioning, Ian Matheson, described the summer as "sensational" for sales. He said a string of hot days in late November resulted in consumers rushing out to buy air conditioning in December. News of El Nino meant some people had feared an "incredibly hot" summer.

For more information...

- Australian Bureau of Meteorology

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