Welcome to the fourth of many wet season wrap ups for Northern Australia where we take a look at Northern Australian towns/cities and go through their previous wet season. In October, we continue our features by speculating at what the early modelling might be showing for the upcoming wet season for these locations so become a subscriber, show your support and get access to this exclusive information. Today we go into the base of the Top End and specifically the townhip of Katherine (pop 6300).
Katherine lies along the originally named Katherine River about 320kms SE of Darwin. A huge chunk of the local workforce is employed at the RAAF base at Tindal (about 15kms away) and this is where the long term meteorological measurements are taken as well. Outside of defense a number of people work in the tourist industry and the agriculture industry has grown in recent decades. Once again this is another town that needs its wet season rains, but is a town where too much of a good thing can have disastrous consequences. There have been 2 huge recent notable flood events of the Katherine River in 1998 and 2006. 2018/19 was certainly not a season that will be remembered for its rainfall.
WET SEASON 2018/19 RAINFALL The build up kicked off slowly across the district last season but a strong thunderstorm on October 15th finally kicked the season off. Wind gusts to 70km/hr and a high lightning rate accompanied that first one. Interestingly it developed the day after residents had to suffer through the warmest night time minimum ever recorded in October of 28.4 degrees. There was a follow up storm but after that it was lights out for the storm season for almost a month.
A trough system set up across the base of the Top End mid November and that resulted in daily doses of storm activity for the town between November 13th and November 19th. With some further storm rainfall later in the month. many of these storms were quite slow moving as the trough system had set up and remained in the region for much of the month and therefore the steering environment didn't really push these storms as much as we are used to. This culminated in some reasonably heavy falls from this storm activity. Regular drops of 20-40mm were experienced throughout November and these were also accompanied by regular wind gusts in excess of gale force. Hopes were high come the end of November with Tropical Cyclone Owen mucking around in the Gulf, some models had the early season system making its way towards Katherine, but it ended up making it only to the Eastern coastline of the Territory before being whisked away to Queensland.
The build up actually made us hopeful of a decent wet season across the base of the Top End, however as December came around, instead of moister air being transported further south in the Territory, drier air pushed further northwards. Completely opposite to what should have been happening at the time. The storm activity died down, we continued to see occasional gusty storms but the rainfall they produced decreased. It became quite clear as December progressed that the first bout of the monsoon was unlikely to affect this region and that Cyclone Owen was just a tease and not a precursor of what was to come.
January's rainfall came from sporadic bouts of storm activity again, with many of those storms occurring during overnight hours and creating some spectacular light shows for those awake to watch them. I reckon there may have been a few wheelie bins and trampolines displaced by morning for those that slept through them because we saw regular gales accompany the overnight storm activity. The wildest storm of the season likely occurred on January 30 2019 and while Tindal's winds aren't spectacular, the town did see trees down from that severe storm.
Despite the lack of the presence of a monsoon this regular surface trough based activity actually kept rainfall amounts reasonably high and while yes - the region did have a poor wet season, Katherine's rainfall was quite reasonable, and certainly closer to average compared to some of the NT's coastal locations. The final storm of the season occurred on April 8th after which the dry season South-Easterlies kicked right in over the Top End's interior.
All told 2018/19 will be an uneventful season that no one will remember across Katherine.
TROPICAL CYCLONE IMPACTS
No Tropical Cyclones or remnants of Tropical Cyclones affected Katherine in season 2018/19.
Maximum temperatures remained above to well-above average in Katherine right across the wet season. Lower than normal rainfall, a lack of monsoonal influence and generally a hot and dry easterly air stream were to blame for the higher than normal temperatures. Night times too were slightly above average but not noticeably so.
Some noteworthy hot temperatures were experienced on March 8th, 13th and 14th with those three days all managing to top the daily March maximum record which stood for 30 years with a sizzling 39.2 recorded.
Where do we go next? Tune in Monday night to find out.
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