Hi and welcome to our second of many wet season wrap ups for Northern Australia where we take a look at many Northern Australian towns/cities and go through their previous wet season. If you're an OCC subscriber, in October we will go through all of these locations and look at what their forecast is for the coming wet season, so if that interests you, why not help support us and get access to exclusive information. Anyway, we thought we'd continue where we left off yesterday with another area of Australia that doesn't get much recognition during the wet season. The three North Kimberley townships of Kalumburu (pop 412), Kanunurra (pop 5300) and Wyndham (pop 7138)
These locations and their surrounding areas are home to about 15000 people and quite a few crops are grown in the region along with some massive cattle stations. That means they rely heavily on their Summer rains to top up dams and water tanks and to make sure the beautiful Ord River continues to flow nicely through the region (providing a boost to tourism). Sadly in 2018/2019 the rains weren't that abundant with the monsoon pulling a no show all season so it was up to isolated thunderstorm activity to fill the gap. Unfortunately though isolated thunderstorm activity is just that - it is isolated and while some farms and stations may have received good falls others just a few kilometres away did not.
WET SEASON 2018/19 RAINFALL Overall this area of Far Northern Australia suffered from the same issue the rest of the far north did - that is the monsoon was non-existent all wet season. The build up period in October began horribly with very little storm activity across the North Kimberley in October and November. However during late November a semi-permanent trough system hugged the NT/WA border for what appeared to be weeks on end and this resulted in Kununurra receiving sporadic doses of thunderstorm rainfall. But very few of these made their way to Wyndham or Kalumburu due to a lack of steering winds for those storms and the fact that the trough remained almost stationary for days on end.
In December we witnessed an increase in storm activity much like what we normally expect of course, but we also expect the monsoon to make its first appearance in the last few days of the month, and it was sorely lacking this season. Therefore all stations recorded below average December rainfalls, the most significant effects of the lack of a monsoon were initially felt in Kalumburu where the failing monsoon resulted in their driest December on record and by a fair margin too.
January gave the region some hope, even without a monsoon operating, Queensland was going through a wet patch and a cyclone was expected to form around the Top End to hopefully kick the rains off. Sadly it didn't happen, the cyclone did form, but too far off the coast to result in significant rainfalls. A gusty storm went through Kalumburu on the 17th January dumping 66mm and then was one of many storm cells that helped to kick start Cyclone Riley in the Browse basin, but that was the only effect of that system on the mainland. However while the cyclone didn't directly impact the region, it did change the airmass temporarily and we saw a humid North-Easterly airmass bring lots of moisture down through the Top End of the Territory and the Arafura Sea resulting in widespread storm activity across the region and some good rainfall between 17th to the 25th January right across the Northern half of the Kimberley with most areas receiving meaningful rainfall in that period, particularly for areas close to the coast.
Whatever slim hope for a decent wet season was offered in January (at least for the coast anyway) was well and truly dashed in February and March. The monsoon never showed up, the storms never became widespread again and cyclones and rain depressions avoided the region like a plague. It was much drier than normal universally across the area. Respite was occasionally provided by a gusty storm, but even most of those didn't have heavy rain associated with them.
Nevertheless, while it certainly was a poor wet season, that period of weather between Mid to late January ensured that it was not the worst season recorded.
TROPICAL CYCLONE IMPACTS
Nil noteworthy impacts however the first part of the genesis of Tropical Cyclone Riley January 18/19 started from a cluster of storms north of the coastline, but offered little in the way of relief for the region except for Kalumburu who did see a solid drop of 66mm associated with storm activity on Jan 17 indirectly associated with the first stages of the LOW pressure system's development.
The first storm cluster from Tropical Cyclone Veronica (which would later greatly impact Karratha/Port Hedland - more on that one another time) could be tracked north-west of Kalumburu in the Browse Basin on March 18th. Once again it provided no significant weather for these three North Kimberley townships.
Under the influence of a poorly formed and misaligned monsoon trough located well to the north of the North Kimberley almost all season, the three remote Kimberley towns sweltered. The monsoon normally provides brief periods of reprieve from the oppressive heat and regulates temperatures somewhat in a normal year. However without its moderating influence in 2018/19 we witnessed temperatures soaring out of control and off the charts.
Wyndham and Kalumburu broke maximum temperature heat records in December and Kununurra wasn't too far off doing so either. In fact in all three of these stations, every single month saw above average temperatures. There was little reprieve overnight for these communities with a shallow layer of moisture trapping heat in overnight as well. The one moderating influence was that for Kununurra and Wyndham at least, the humidity levels were a little lower than normal due to the presence of drier air coming in from Central Australia.
The heat highlight was Kalumburu which broke its previous December daily maximum record a whopping 10 times throughout the month with a new record now standing of 42.2 degrees almost a full 2 degrees above the previous record (40.3 in 2009)
One thing's for sure, there will be few people wanting to see a repeat of that level of heat this coming season.
Where do we go next? Tune in tomorrow night to find out.
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