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Extreme weather dominates Annual Climate Statement 2011

Extreme weather dominates Annual Climate Statement 2011

Published: 13th January 2012

Tree damage and a flooded street in South Townsville, February 2011. Photo by Rob and Stephanie Levy. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The Bureau of Meteorology has released its Annual Climate Statement, highlighting a year likely to go down as the third wettest on record, with widespread and severe flooding across northern and eastern Australia.

Last year's weather was dominated by two La Niña events. The first, one of the strongest in recorded history, began in 2010 and continued into the autumn of 2011. The second, weaker event, formed toward the end of winter.

The Spanish term La Niña translates as the ‘girl-child’. The meteorological opposite of El Niño, La Niña is associated with cooling in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean which often plays out in increased rainfall, particularly in the eastern states.

Last year much of the country received above average rainfall. Rainfall was heaviest in the tropics and over eastern Australia at the start of the year, while much of the western half of the continent received good falls in spring and early summer. Only isolated regions received average or below average rainfall.

Wetter conditions contributed to the first cooler than average year for Australia since 2001, although the past ten years rank as the equal warmest decade on record.

In contrast to the national pattern, Perth and the southwest of Australia recorded its hottest year on record. Ocean temperatures around Australia were well above average, with parts of the eastern Indian Ocean recording the warmest temperatures on record.

A number of significant tropical cyclones impacted Australia in 2011. Tropical cyclone Anthony crossed the north Queensland coast near Bowen, while Bianca tracked along the west Australian Kimberley and Pilbara coasts.

On 3 February tropical cyclone Yasi, which developed near the Fijian islands, became the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall since 1918, another La Niña year. Two weeks later, tropical cyclone Carlos brought heavy rainfall and flash flooding to northern Australia between 15 and 17 February. The year ended with tropical cyclone Grant bringing intense rainfall and flash flooding, washing away roads and railway lines in the Top End.

Globally, 2011 saw the equal 10th highest mean temperature on record according to preliminary data released by the World Meteorological Organization, with 13 of the warmest years having occurred in the past 15 years.

For further information, or to download the Annual Climate Statement 2011, go to: http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/climate/change/20120104.shtml