At almost 3 million square miles, Australia is
the sixth largest country in the world and so has very diverse geography and
climates. Much of Australia’s
land mass is desert but there are also rainforests and snow-capped mountains.
The island of Australia makes
up the majority of the Oceania continent.
There are many different climates to be
found across the country; from arid desert climate; to tropical; to coastal
temperate; to alpine. The majority of the population lives in the coastal
One thing Australia is renowned for is
sunshine and its reputation is well-earned.
This region of Australia
experiences a temperate climate. The climate and relative fertility of
the region make it easily the most populous area of the country. It includes
most of Australia’s largest
cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide. The
temperate climate region covers mainly Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory,
but also the south east of Queensland and the south east of South Australia.
The climate here is typified by warm
summers and mild winters. Rainfall has a fairly even spread, though it is a bit
higher in the first half of the year.
Sydney’s climate sees summer highs averaging 26°C and winter
lows averaging 8°C or 9°C. (Remember Australia is in southern hemisphere
so the seasons are reserved from those we experience in the northern half of
the globe). It commonly reaches into the 30s during good summer weather and
heat waves may even see temperatures rise to 40°C. Rainfall averages about
1200mm a year; there are about 140 days with rain each year. January to June is
the wettest period with monthly rainfall between 100 and 130mm, while the rest
of the year is slightly drier. September is the driest month with about 70mm
average. You can see a detailed overview of Sydney’s weather across the year here and find monthly weather averages here.
Sydney’s climate is typical of the region, though as you
move north summer temperatures can be a little hotter and as you move south
winters get a little cooler. Melbourne, the most
southerly city of mainland Australia,
can see winter lows drop to 5°C or 6°C. The cooler temperatures are due mainly
to the cooler seas towards the south pole; cold snaps happen when cold winds
and currents travel up from Antarctica. Extreme
cold snaps are rare but can occur; in 2005 Melbourne saw snow on its beaches.
Sunshine is abundant in this part of
the world and summers are long and hot; hence the sun, sea and surf reputation
of the region.
Inland from the coast, temperature
extremes are greater. Due to the lack of the temperate sea breezes, it can drop
to freezing and summer heat can soar. Canberra, the
capital, sees winter lows averaging 0°C or 1°C while summer highs are a touch
higher than on the coast. Snowfall is not very rare, and in the hilly areas
such as the Blue Mountains west of Sydney it falls each winter.
The main mountains of the country, the
Australian Alps, lie further south, to the northeast of Melbourne straddling the border between Victoria and New South Wales. The
highest mountain, Mt.
Kosciuszko at 2228m, is
not particularly tall but is high enough to see snow cover for a few months
each year. There are even ski resorts in the area such as Thredbo. The ski
season can last from June to September.
Central Australia experiences a harsh
desert climate and supports just a tiny proportion of Australia’s
population. Deserts occupy almost 45% of Australia’s
land and are prominent in the centre and North
Summers are extremely hot, with
temperatures generally between 32°C and 40°C during the warmest months. Winters
are warm with temperatures between 18°C and 23°C.
Rainfall in the desert is very low –
around 200mm to 250mm per year.
Western Australia is predominantly arid desert,
experiencing the same climate as central Australia. The coast enjoys more
comfortable weather; the temperature doesn’t get as high in summer and more
frequent rainfall makes the area more fertile. Perth sees summer highs above 30°C and winter
lows around 8°C. Rainfall is low except for in winter when a short rainy period
occurs. For an overview of Perth’s
weather look here and for average temperatures look here.
This is another sparsely populated
region of Australia.
A tropical climate prevails here, with high temperatures and more abundant
rainfall. Being relatively close to the equator, temperatures are high year round
with little seasonal fluctuation. In Darwin, the main city of the Northern Territory,
average temperatures vary between 25°C in winter and 30°C in summer. Rainfall
is abundant but very seasonal; it’s high in the summer months – up to 400mm a
month, but very low in winter.
Rainforests cover the northern part of Queensland where rainfall is amongst the highest
in the country.
of Tasmania lies around 240kms off Victoria’s south
coast. It is Australia’s
most southerly region and therefore sees the coldest temperatures; average
temperatures in the capital Hobart are 8°C in winter and 17°C in summer. Cold snaps
can occur when cold weather comes up from the Antarctic. The weather is highly
variable due to the exposure to winds and seas. The highest temperature
recorded on the island is 40°C and the lowest -13°C. Rainfall is greater than on
the mainland, and is at its highest in winter in the hilly central regions,
which can average more than 2500mm per year. The north coast, where most of the
population resides, is the driest place on the island with around 700mm per
year. In the central hills snow falls each year and temperatures drop below
zero quite often.
Several weather-related natural
disasters occur in Australia.
The most common and problematic of these are droughts and bush fires caused by long dry summer spells. Eastern
Australia is the most susceptible to bush fires. Dry summers can
be a common occurrence in Australia
and water supply is a constant worry. Regions also come under drought risk when
there have been particularly dry winters and springs, the seasons normally
relied on for most of the rainfall. As the population increases, droughts
become more and more of a problem as this predominantly dry island struggles to
cope with the water demands of a growing population.
Tropical cyclones are a risk in the coastal regions of
the northern part of the country. These violent storms can cause severe
flooding, structural damage and loss of life. Although they are not
particularly common, they are a threat each year between December and April.
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