| 05.01,12. 03:49 AM |
Expect more rain, hail, shine
January 05, 2012
WET and wild weather remains a risk this year after we notched up one of our wettest years on record in 2011.
The Bureau of Meteorology's annual climate statement confirmed what we already knew - flooding rains and damaging storms were a feature of last year.
The unusual weather is being blamed on back-to-back La Nina weather patterns, which will continue to influence us in the first part of this year.
Australia's average 2011 rainfall was 699mm, 234mm above normal. It made the year the third wettest since records began in 1900, with March the wettest month ever recorded.
Christmas Day's storms capped off an eventful year that began with one of the worst natural disasters Victoria has seen.
And, in between, Melbourne saw flash flooding in February that turned Flinders St into a torrent; severe thunderstorms in September that forced the airport and Royal Melbourne Show to close; and a freak tornado near Albury and extensive flooding in Gippsland.
What was predicted as a weak La Nina event swelled towards the end of the year, causing 834mm of rainfall to dump on Melbourne alone, the highest level since 1993.
Dr David Jones, the bureau's manager of climate monitoring and prediction, said there had been a "phenomenal turnaround" in rainfall compared with the 1997-2009 drought.
"It has been a remarkable back-to-back sequence of wet years for Australia ... it's a really rare occurrence."
Dr Jones said rain also had come at unexpected times, with autumn and early winter dry after downpours earlier in the year.
Professor of environmental science at Newcastle University Stewart Franks said there was a strong possibility of repeat conditions this year.
"What we are going to see is the continuation of La Nina," he said. "The recent La Nina activity ... is indicating that we've reverted to a period where we are expecting more La Ninas.
"They say typically about February or March that we still have a month or two of reasonably high flood risk."
The climate report showed Australia's temperature was 21.6C, below average for the first time since 2001.
But despite the rain and cooler conditions across the nation, the bureau says we are on track to have one of our warmest decades.