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We escaped extreme heat

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March 11, 2017

So far this summer has not been as hot as the 2015-16 summer.

The mean maximum temperature has been about 1.5 degrees lower this summer.

The mean minimum temperature to date has also been one degree below normal.

Last Friday week, February 10, was 40.2°C and this was the first occasion this summer that 40 was recorded.

There were four occasions last summer of 40 or more.

It may sound surprising in view of the record February temperatures of 46-47° over a large area of NSW, including the mid north coast of NSW recently and also at places in Southern inland Queensland, we managed to escape the extreme heat, which was unprecedented following excessive rainfalls from May to October from QLD through to Tasmania.

Looking at past cases of excessive rains from May to October dating back to 1870; there were 14 of them and not one of them was followed by a summer as hot as this one in NSW and QLD.

It came close after the wet 1891 when January to March 1892 was excessively hot including Victoria.

The excessive rains and flooding in Southern WA with an all time record of 246mm at Ravensthorpe in 115 years of records and persistent rain over the rest of WA with maximum temperatures at most places three to four degrees below the summer normal may have prevented the extreme heat to reach north east Victoria; but now the rain in WA is clearing and the early part of March may be the hottest for this summer.

The last three mornings from last Sunday to Tuesday were unusually cold for February in Benalla with readings of 6°C, which is the coldest for February since 5°C on February 17, 1998 and February 27, 1985.

It is probable that there was a lower February reading in 1940 as Rutherglen recorded only 1°C on February 29, 1940.

These cold February mornings certainly indicate that summer is definitely not over yet.

In 1998, March was very dry and hot with no appreciable rain until April 19.

In 1985, March was also much hotter than usual, but rain fell on March 18.

More rain fell in early April, with temperatures above normal.

It was the warmest Autumn in Melbourne since 1938.

In 1940, March was the hottest on record, welcome heavy rain fell on April 3 and again at mid month.

This summer has been wetter than average in Benalla, but a lot drier than average in Wangaratta.

The last and only time the same rainfall pattern previously occurred was during the summer of 1952-53.

Once again March 1953 was very dry and hotter than normal and April was also warmer and drier than usual except for moderate rains about April 13 and 26.

It is difficult to indicate when the autumn break will arrive.

I have got the impression at present it will be a week before Easter or close to Anzac Day.

Last month, the mean max temperature was 29.5°C and this was the lowest in February since 2012.

The mean minimum temperature of 13.5°C was the lowest for February since 2005.

The rainfall of 36.4mm was close to the February average.

It was the wettest summer in Benalla for five years, the rainfall was 140mm.

It was the coolest summer for five years.

Warrenbayne had its third wettest summer in 115 years.

— Peter Nelson, retired CSIRO weather officer, Benalla

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