The Winter Season In Australia: La Nina And El Nino
Australia is known to be the 6th largest country in the world, with an area of 2,969,907 sq. miles. Also, it is considered as having the largest island in the world and sometimes called an “island continent”. Some neighboring countries of Australia include East Timor, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands. The country has a wide range of climates, which includes the tropical climate in the northern part of Australia that has tropical rainforests, grasslands, and deserts. Australia is referred to as the oldest, flattest, and driest subcontinent whose soil is moderately fertile and has temperature climates in the southeast and southwest corners of the nation.
Does it snow in Australia? Throughout the year, the country experiences high sunshine and temperatures and a larger part of Australia (80%) gets below 24 inches of rainfall every year. However, in some areas in Australia, there can be large amounts of snow. To be factual, the majority of cities in Australia receive snow on a regular basis. In Australia’s northern parts, the winter in most cases is warm, and then in regions of high altitude i.e. in the Southern part of Australia, it is colder.
Where does it snow in Australia?
As mentioned earlier, snowfalls in some parts of Australia, include Tasmania, Canberra, etc.
Tasmania only experiences snowfalls during the winter, however, it is very rare on the northern coast of the state. In Tasmania, the winter months are usually the wettest and the coolest, and snow covers up various regions of high altitude. Most times, the central plateau has its highest winter temperature as 3 degrees centigrade while the coastal region’s average temperature is 12 degrees centigrade.
Every winter, Canberra experiences very light snow. Within the central business district of Canberra, the fall of snow is rare; however, its surrounding regions usually receive snow every year. Some areas of the Canberra mountains that are snow-capped can be clearly seen from the central business district.
Numerous state capitals in South Australia like Melbourne (Victoria) and Hobart (Tasmania) have got some snow at least once. Some other cities receive snowfalls every season, which include Oberon, Lithgow, Katoomba, and Orange. In addition, Mount Buller, Thredbo, Perisher Ski Resort, and Cabramurra, which have ski-tourism industries seasonally, get snow on a regular basis.
Some isolated areas in the South and Western Australia, Great Dividing Range, and Queensland get snow on a regular basis. The highlands that are close to Victoria’s eastern coast as well as New South Wales, get snowfalls regularly.
Some rural cities and areas like Hobart and Canberra have experienced snow which is caused by cold snaps occasionally, which is caused because of cold air that comes from Antarctica. Cold snaps which are very rare occurred back in the years 1958, 1965, 1986, 2005, and 2015.
Snow caused in Queensland, Longreach, as well as some lowland towns such as Dubba and Wagga Wagga experienced snow due to extreme snow events. However, the frequency and intensity of the snow events have dropped in the last 40 years.
How often does it snow in Australia?
Australia is a diverse and large country. While most parts of the country are hot, maybe the tropics or the desert, and as a result do not have snowfalls, we also have many parts of Australia that get snowfall.
Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales get some snowfall every winter in the cooler inland areas and the mountains.
On very unusual occasions was there a tiny sprinkle of snow. This is very rare. During mid-winter, the night temperature could be as low as 1c, and overnight, it will most probably be about 5c. During the daytime, it is about 13c to 18c.
The major issue here is the wind that comes off Antarctica which could be very chilling, so there’ll be a need for you to get a warm coat. According to inhabitants that have lived in the Melbourne suburbs for about 40 to 50 years, the snow has only been seen twice.
Elevations that are higher in surrounding areas, just like Mount Macedon, Mount Dandenong, and the Yarra Ranges stretch towards Ballarat and get some light snow dustings every winter.
When does it snow in Australia?
The snow season in Australia is notoriously fickle. Like in the year 1964, some years can bring deep cover that lasts for almost six months, while some others only manage to cover the grass in just a few weeks (like the one that happened in the year 2006).
One weather event may be the difference between a bad season and a good one, like the so-called Snowmageddon in the year 2014 that dropped snow of about one meter in less than seven days.
The snow season’s high variability means that the Bureau of Meteorology currently, does not give an outlook for snow on a season basis (just the way it is done for rainfall and temperature). However, what we know is that the same drivers of climate, affect the weather in Australia also affects the snowfall in Australia.
La Nina and El Nino
The best method of discovering the variation of snow from one year to the other is to utilize data got from Spencers Creek in the snowy mountains of New South Wales, which is a pristine site situated about 1,830 meters above the sea level.
It has been revealed from past studies that the data here tends to be in tandem with the snowfall, especially across the mainland alpine regions, however, they don’t usually match that at lower elevations.
First, let’s consider El Nino. In 2016, Australia came out of the record-strongest El Nino events. During the snow season in the El Nino years, rainfall is usually on average across the eastern parts of Australia and then during the day, the temperatures become warmer. The maximum depth of snow on average was around 35 years, which is less compared to the all-years average. On the other hand, the period with over 100 cm is shorter by about two weeks.
La Nina, which is the opposite of El Nino, in most cases brings an above-average rainfall; however, this does not mean there will be more snow. In some cases, temperatures could be very high, and thus precipitation could fall like rain even at elevations that are higher, which can decrease the depths of snow.
In recent decades, this has occurred very frequently due to changes in climate. 7 out of the last 8 La Nina years, on average, have given maximum snow depths. From history, the neutral years have delivered good snow depths consistently that either the La Nina or El Nino years.
These drivers must be considered as moving the odds to reach the desired outcome, instead of guaranteeing it. The historical years of El Nino have experienced snow that is well below average, three years of El Nino (1972, 1977, and 1991) have snow depths that are high above average. The El Nino years of recent, have not produced good snow, having their winters particularly dry.
Other Players involved
To complicate things, La Nina and El Nino does not work or act alone. One clear indicator of the snow depth may be the IOD (Indian Ocean Dipole). Just like El Nino, the positive years of IOD seems drier across the central and southeastern Australia compared to the average, which results in lower snow depths.
They are usually dry over the Alps of Australia when there is a coinciding of positive IOD and El Nino events.
It is not surprising that snow depths happening in the late spring and winter usually falls when there is a positive IOD. Snow depths tend to be higher generally when compared to the average during the negative IOD years.
Snowfall has the strongest relationship with SAM (Southern Annular Mode). Low-pressure systems and cold fronts are the major weather systems bringing the Australian snow, and SAM tells if the westerlies bringing this weather are nearer to the poles or Australia.
With a negative SAM, snow, rain, and fronts are brought further north, while a positive SAM, on the other hand, brings these fronts further south. The negative SAM years bring an average maximum snow depth of 240cm, which is cool, about 80cm more compared to the positive years.
Sadly, accurate SAM forecasts can only happen for about 2 to 3 weeks earlier, which tells us that the measure is less of a forecasting tool but of a diagnostic one.
For sure, changes in climate also has a hand in this. Both the total accumulated snow and the maximum snow depth have dropped over the last 25 years. This reduction in snow cover is well visible at the lower elevations as well as the close of the ski season when the rains of warm sprigs can speed up the melt.
The Winter season in Australia is surely one of the great winters to be experienced in the world. With the temperatures rarely dropping to negative numbers, you’re sure to have a great time. The winter season in Australia starts early June and ends August ending. Though snow is not very common in most parts of Australia, it can be found in some selected locations.