Weather

Australia's hottest March on record

Ben Domensino, 2 April 2019

Last month was Australia's warmest March in 109 years of records. The nationally averaged mean temperature was 2.13 degrees above average, beating the previous record of 1.87 degrees from 2016.

Our nation's unprecedented warmth during March was underpinned by excessive heat in central Australia, where maximum temperatures were more than five degrees above average in some areas.

The Northern Territory's Rabbit Flat set a new Australian record last month, reaching 115 consecutive days above 39 degrees, between December 1st and March 25th. This beat the previous record of 106 days at Marble Bar back in the early 1920s.

Rabbit Flat is a relatively new weather station, with data only going back to 1997. However, the highest maximum temperature observed during March over this 22 year period has increased by more than three degrees.

In addition the warmth last month, some parts of northern and eastern Australia received decent rain during March, thanks largely to two tropical cyclones.

Cyclone Veronica brought close to 500mm of rain to parts of Western Australia's Pilbara coast, where Port Hedland received 179mm in just 24 hours, which was a new daily record for March.

Further east, Cyclone Trevor soaked parts of Queensland and the NT during the second half of March. Large areas of central and western Queensland and the NT's eastern inland saw rainfall totals that were in the top 10 percent of historical records for March.

Some studies suggest that the overall number of tropical cyclones has decreased in the Australian region during recent decades, although this is still very much an active area of research.

According to the BoM and CSIRO, climate change is expected to cause fewer tropical cyclones but with a greater proportion of high intensity systems.

Veronica and Trevor were both category four severe tropical cyclones when they reached their peak intensity last month, producing wind gusts of at least 250km/h.