When Does Winter Start?
Australia experiences all four seasons, although it usually has mild winters which last from the beginning of June to the end of August. Because Australia is a medium-sized continent, it is generally protected from the harsh polar winds coming from Antarctica. July tends to be the coldest month, as it sits right smack in the middle of winter.
Snowfall In Australia
Precipitation is generally scarce in Australia overall, with a very low average annual rainfall. Despite this, it does get quite snowy in certain parts of the country. But where does snow tend to fall in Australia? The Snowy Mountains in NSW and Victoria’s Alpine Region get the most snowfall, making these winter wonderlands ideal skiing destinations.
On the other hand, the north of Australia stays warm all-year-round, with the temperature rarely dipping below 24 degrees. Throughout continental Australia, it is rare for temperatures to fall below zero.
How Cold Is Each State?
Australia is a massive place, a country that spans an entire continent, so there’s bound to be variation between each state or territory. So which state has the coldest weather in Australia? Where was the coldest temperature in Australia recorded? Which state can rightfully claim to be the coldest place in Australia?
The Northern Territory
Let’s start in the warm north! The Northern Territory is so large it experiences two different climates, with Darwin at the northern end experiencing a tropical savannah-like climate. The rest of the Northern Territory is arid or semi-arid desert, experiencing little rain during the holiday months. On July 17, 1976, Alice Springs Airport experienced a temperature of -7.5C.
Next on our list is Queensland, in the northeast. Queensland is large enough to experience different climates across the state. The city of Cairns lies in the far northern coastal zone and experiences hot humid summers and warm winters.
Meanwhile, to the southeast, the town of Stanthorpe endures colder, drier winters. This might explain why it had the coldest day in the entire state on the 4th of July, 1895, with a recorded temperature of -11.0C.
Speaking of big, let’s talk about Western Australia. Most of Western Australia is hot and arid, with the northern portion having a more humid, tropical climate. Western Australia is definitely not the coldest state in Australia. Still, it’s not immune to dips in temperature. On August 17, 2008, a temperature of -7.2C was recorded in Eyre, on the southern coast of the state.
Victoria has an average temperature of 16.6C in May but recently it experienced its coldest day in two decades, with Melbourne’s CBD hitting 10.6C on May 29, 2019. Ballarat even saw snowfall on the same day, with temperatures reaching 5.7C, the coldest in 19 years. Gippsland experienced record low temperatures on that day as well.
New South Wales
In contrast, New South Wales’ climate is mild and humid, with Sydney in particular experiencing an annual rainfall of just 1,222mm, with an average temperature of 13C in June. On June 22, 1938, however, it recorded a minimum temperature of a staggering -8C in Richmond.
Canberra has mild and wet summers and cold winters. On July 11, 1971, a temperature of -14.6C was recorded in Gudgenby.
Closer down to the South Pole, the state of South Australia goes through a temperature range of 29C in January and 15C in July. It’s not always like that, though – on July 20, 1976, a low of -8.2C was recorded in Yongala, a small town situated on a high plateau.
On the island of Tasmania, which is more exposed to the cold southern winds, a frosty -13.0C was recorded on June 30, 1983, in rural Shannon.
What Is The Coldest Town In Australia?
So who wins the contest? Strangely enough, NSW occupies 6 out of the top 10 coldest towns in Australia, despite being further north than Victoria and Tasmania. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the coldest town in Australia in July 2019 was Cooma, in the southern part of NSW.
Why is NSW so cold? Well, because many of the towns in NSW are elevated much higher than towns in Victoria and Tasmania, with many of them close to or exceeding 1km above sea level. NSW also experiences more cloudy days than clear ones and the combination of these factors result in colder temperatures.
Is Australia Getting Colder?
With all the cold winters Australia has experienced in the past few years, especially with the record low in Melbourne, it might be tempting to conclude that the climate is getting colder, not warmer as climate change advocates suggest. But this conclusion is wrong, according to scientists.
According to a study analysing data and weather maps over the past 100 years, Australian temperatures have warmed since good record-keeping began in 1910. 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record, and 2014 was third-warmest. This continuing trend could result in drought and ocean acidification, which could critically hit the Great Barrier Reef.
So what is cooling Australia? Many things contribute to freezing temperatures, like sunspot activity, far-ranging polar winds, and tropical cyclones. All of these factors can cause extreme weather events, and even cause colder winters in the short-term.
Bundle Up For Winter
Although climate change is said to be slowly warming the average temperatures on the planet, we will still experience extreme highs and lows as time passes. While climate is something we can predict long-term, short-term weather is much less predictable, so make sure you’re prepared for sunny summers and frigid winters.
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