Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Welcome to Did You Know'. A daily OCC segment where we tackle some of the easy and not so easy questions we come across on our social networks. Tonight's question is about the 'Golden Gumboot'
Did You Know:
"Can you settle this, what is Australia's wettest town?"
Want to know more? well read on
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Babinda Pop 1253 located on the North-East coast of Queensland and nestled at the foothills of Queensland's two tallest mountains (Mt Bartle Frair 1611m, and Mt Bellenden Ker 1593m) along with an almost north-south orientated patch of coastline, makes it an ideal location to take out Australia's Golden Gumboot (the wettest town in Australia). Babinda and Tully often fight out the title year to year but over time it's not much of a contest with Babinda beating Tully by almost 200mm amassing a whopping average of 4269.7mm vs Tully's 'meagre' 4083.8mm.
The orientation of this section of coastline opens it up to the SE trade winds and the weak shower activity that those trade winds can bring, but it is the power of the mountain ranges that supercharges everything in this region. As the SE trade winds come onshore the mountain ranges act as a physical block forcing the air upwards violently as we know from previous 'Did You Know's' as air rises it expands and cools forcing condensation which causes further heating of the air around it and allows greater vertical development of the cloud despite what would otherwise be a pretty stable atmosphere. Once we hit the top of the mountain range no further forced lifting exists so once the last of the latent heat energy is used up and the air is no longer buoyant we hit the cloud ceiling or equilibrium level pretty quickly. But a cloud that is 2000m deep and blocked by a mountain can certainly produce a bit of rain. Therefore a trade wind south-easterly that would produce perhaps a cloudy day or a couple of mm of rain in Cairns up the road can produce 20-30mm around Tully and Babinda. This process of forced lift due to topography is called orographic lifting. The forcing is exacerbated on unstable days and days where we have air-masses converging in the region say south of the Monsoon trough or south of a Tropical Cyclone. In days of a conditionally unstable atmosphere, the mountain ranges could provide that added little kick to convection especially as the north-easterly sea breeze stabilises the coast but is forced upwards by the mountains. As storms move from the tablelands towards the coast they begin to decay (we will cover why in another 'did you know') but the forced ascent of air gives the convection a 'second wind' and we sometimes see it explode as it approaches these really tall mountain ranges.
Convergence days are the dangerous days for rainfall in North Queensland, they provide the big cities like Townsville and Cairns with those solid 200mm/24 hr type rainfalls. However for places on this section of coastline those numbers can more than double. It isn't uncommon to see these regions cop 300-500mm/day during the wet season when they fall under these convergence zone setups. The heaviest rain producing convergence is one that sees winds from the NE collide with winds from the SE. This will usually happen on the south-side of the Monsoon Trough when a new ridge from Southern Australia tries to muscle in on the monsoon's turf. These numbers in a short space of time obviously trigger widespread flooding and rockfalls along the mountain sides making travel along the highways dangerous.
It's always a fun battle between Babinda and Tully but the real golden gumboot winner is Mt Bellenden Ker anyone living at the top of that mountain receives just over 8m of rain in an average year 8118mm.
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