Handy Information About Australian Weather For Travellers
The Australian weather conditions are hot during the summer (in most areas) and quite mild during the winter. The tropical regions of Australia north of about Cairns in Queensland and Broome in Western Australia do not really experience cool temperatures even during the winter.
You'll find that the temperatures in the southern parts (i.e. the coldest regions) of Australia during the winter are much warmer than most mid-to-high latitude countries such as the UK, Europe, Russia, Canada as well as central and northern China as well as the US.
If you're planning to visit Australia and you come from the northern hemisphere, you must remember that the seasons are reversed. In Australia, our winter months are June, July and August.
Furthermore, when I speak of the northern parts of Australia, you can expect the weather to be much more humid and the seasons far less pronounced. For example, the northern coastline around Darwin lies only about 1100 kilometres south of the equator. So you can expect that the daytime maximum temperatures will rarely drop below 30°C during any time of the year.
In comparison, the most southerly capital city in Australia is Hobart. Hobart is approximately 4200 kilometres south of the equator and has four distinct seasons much like those that occur in Europe, China and North America.
However, there's one main difference. The weather in southern Australia is not nearly as cold in the winter since the Southern Ocean to the south of Australia moderates the weather conditions.
So what's so unusual about Australian weather conditions? Please see below:
Australia is the only country in the Southern Hemisphere where the rainfall decreases as you travel inland.
That's the main reason why most of the population chooses to live on the coast, since the rainfall is more reliable.
I've also written an additional page on Australian weather hazards which you may find useful.
Tropical Northern Australian Weather Conditions
In the coastal areas of northern Australia, the best time to travel is from May-October since these months will coincide with the dry season.
Since almost no rain occurs during the dry season, it's highly unlikely that you'll encounter any bad weather that will ruin your holiday experience.
During the wet season (November-April) there's always the possibility that your trip may be hampered by floods.
The north eastern coastline of Queensland just south of Cairns normally records the most rain out of any region in Australia. In particular, the township of Tully commonly receives 4400 millimetres of rain a year. Higher rainfall totals are found in the mountains near Tully as well as on Hinchinbrook Island. How high? Well up to 11500 millimetres (that's 11.5 metres!) of rain a year. Most of this falls during the wet season.
The other parts of northern coastal of Australia receive between 1500 to 2000 millimetres annually and in most years you'll only see this rain if you travel here in the summer and early autumn months.
During the summer and early autumn months (December-March) the high humidity levels may make you feel lethargic. Once you've experienced the northern Australian weather then you'll know what I mean. The only respite from the heat and humidity during the summer months will be from the arrival of cool air due to a passing thunderstorm.
The extremely humid northern Australian weather conditions in the summer can be quite uncomfortable and so you'll need to limit the amount of strenuous physical activities you hope to pursue. Obviously, if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, then your best bet is to visit the northern parts of Australia in the drier and cooler months (May to early October).
You'll find that the temperatures don't vary too much throughout the year and remain steady around 31-33°C (88-91°F) by day and 19-25°C (66-77°F) at night. The hottest daytime temperatures occur just before the arrival of the wet season (October and November).
For most of the year in northern Australia, the wind blows in from the southeast. However, with the arrival of the monsoon, the wind changes direction and comes in from the northwest. This brings with it frequent thunderstorms and heavy rain.
One thing that you'll notice in the tropics is that there's hardly any twilight. One minute the sun is setting, the next, it's dark. So whatever you do, don't go for a bush walk around sunset without a torch.
Darwin is the most northern capital city in Australia and attracts great numbers of tourists during the dry season. Darwin was in the spotlight back in December 1974 when severe tropical cyclone Tracy made a direct hit on the city in the early hours of Christmas day. Sixty five people were killed and 70 percent of the city was destroyed since most of the housing back in those days wasn't designed to withstand such high winds.
Outback Australian weather
Well now you can forget about the humidity...there's none in central Australia (except after rain). Only sparse vegetation, red dirt interspersed with sand dunes, plenty of sunshine and the occasional dust storm.
It will be obvious to you just by looking at the desert landscape that this region hardly receives any rain. In fact, most of this region receives less than 150 millimetres every year. A prominent rain-bearing Australian weather system, known locally as the north-west cloud band, is responsible for producing around 30 percent of the annual rainfall in the outback regions of Australia. This north-west cloud band most commonly forms in the winter months.
In the last two decades, most areas of arid Australia have seen a doubling of their rainfall since the Australian weather patterns have altered. For this reason, you can expect to see some rain from afternoon thunderstorm activity during the summer months.
I wouldn't advise that you travel into the outback during the summer as this region is extremely hot. You won't really enjoy yourself since the temperatures sits around 40-48°C (104-118°F) during the day and rarely cools below 28°C (82°F) at night.
In fact the highest official temperature in Australia is 50.7°C (123.3°F) at a desert town called Oodnadatta on the 2nd January 1960. That was the actual air temperature taken in the shade, so you can imagine how hot it can get in the full sun. Most of the Oodnadatta's population lives underground since the surface is simply too hot to live on.
So just beware that the Australian weather conditions in most inland regions are always hot from November-March. The best time to travel out here is in the cooler months (May-August).
During the winter, it can get quite cold at night often falling below zero degrees celsius and rising to around the high teens (°C). If you're thinking of walking up Ayres Rock you may be surprised to know that it occasionally snows on the summit in the winter. The very top of Ayers Rock is 867 metres above sea-level.
Southern Australian weather
A beautiful photo of the famous 'Twelve Apostles' in all their glory.
You can travel around southern parts of Australia at anytime of the year. The only thing that you'll need to be watching out for (particularly during January and February) is the arrival of bushfires and hot weather.
However, cold weather can hit this region, particularly in the mountains of north-east Victoria, central Tasmania and south-eastern New South Wales.
So what do I mean by cold? Well...The coldest temperatures in Australia normally occur in southern New South Wales in the Snowy Mountains. On a typical winter day, the maximum daytime temperature doesn't exceed 0°C (32°F) and the minimum nighttime temperatures commonly drop down to -7°C (19.5°F).
The lowest recorded temperature in Australia is -23°C (-9.4°F) at the snow resort of Charlotte Pass in the Snowy Mountains. Such low temperatures are rare thankfully.
Even during the summer, the Snowy Mountains have daytime temperatures that reach around 17°C (63°F). However, given that this region is well above sea level, you can expect the temperatures to fluctuate widely. For example, if the wind is from the north west, the temperatures may rise to 30°C (86°F). Within 30 minutes, the temperature drops to 7°C accompanied by gale-force south westerly winds. So for that reason you'll definitely need to bring some warm clothes even during the summer if you're thinking of visiting the Snowy Mountains.
The Snowy Mountains is home to Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain which rises to 2230 metres above-sea-level. This area is covered in deep snow from June through to September. During the summer, you'll enjoy hiking through this region as the whole area is covered in a blaze of colour from all the wildflowers.
Like all mountainous areas of southern Australia in the summer months, you have to keep your eyes open for any distant smoke since you don't want to be caught in a bushfire!
Overall the southern Australian weather conditions is controlled by the regular arrival of cold fronts that move in from the south-west. These cold fronts bring much needed rain in the winter months to the south-western parts of Western Australia as well as southern South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.
You can be assured that drizzle will be common feature of coastal south-eastern Australian weather in the winter months. You'll find this drizzle a bit of a nuisance since you won't be sure what to wear. Most of the locals just bring their wet weather clothing with them wherever they go... (just in case).
The temperatures in Tasmania and southern Victoria hover near freezing at night in the winter but warm up to around 10-13°C (50-55°F) by day. Although up in the mountains, you'll find the temperatures are much cooler and it's highly likely you'll see some snow falling if it's winter.
The mountains of southern New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are normally the wettest locations in southern Australia. It's common for this area to receive more than 2000 millimetres of rain annually. The majority of the precipitation during the winter occurs in the form of snow.
In the summer, most of the mountains have short bursts of rain associated with localised afternoon thunderstorms. You need to be very careful if you plan to bush walk up into the mountains since cloud-to-ground lightning strikes are common in the warmer months.
In Tasmania, there is a wide variation in rainfall. The eastern parts of Tasmania are much drier than most areas in the west. The south western coastline of Tasmania receives a little over 3000 millimetres annually and is buffeted by strong to gale force south-west winds during the wintertime. It's quite common in the winter for fog and drizzle to hang around for weeks. So you'll be very fortunate if you do see the sun at all in the winter months in south-western Tasmania. In comparison, the north-eastern parts of Tasmania has mostly sunny weather and much lower rainfall totals. The wettest time of year in Tasmania is in the winter just like it is in southern Western Australia.
This of course leads me into the next topic:
Southern Western Australian weather conditions have a distinct Mediterranean influence. That is, the winters are wet and cool and the summers, hot and dry. Heavy rain in the winter can cause flooding in this area since the rainfall can get quite intense. You can also expect that most days will be quite windy especially if there's a cool change approaching.
The temperature in the winter months hover around 17-19°C (63-66°F) by day. In the summer, you can expect temperatures to regularly rise above 40°C (104°F) for days on end until a cool change brings relief. The locals in part of the world call this cool change (i.e. sea breeze) the "Freemantle doctor" since it appears that the cool weather has just arrived in time to save the heat-weary locals.
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