BOM says 2021 the coolest and wettest year in nearly a decade

Gregor Heard
By Gregor Heard
January 8 2022 - 1:45am
A La Nina and Indian Ocean Dipole negative event both helped combine to keep temperatures down and rainfall up across most of Australia last year.

IT was a tail of two states during 2021, with some areas having rainfall tallies well above the average, while for others, it was among the driest years in the past 120 years.

According the Bureau of Meteorology' annual climate statement, the state overall had rainfall about 2 per cent below the average, even while experiencing its wettest November on record, said BoM senior climatologist Simon Grainger.

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It was also a generally cooler year.

But temperatures were up on the Eyre Peninsula and Pastoral regions, as were rainfall tallies.

"The EP and pastoral districts rainfall was up to 25pc above the average, including an exceptionally wet November," he said.

It was a different story along the east.

"The South East, Murraylands and Riverland districts had rainfall up to 40pc below the average," he said.

"In parts of the Murraylands district around Lameroo, 2021 was in the driest 20pc of all years since 1900."

Nationally, the of both La Nina and an Indian Ocean Dipole negative weather events have combined to see Australia record its coolest year in nearly a decade in 2021.

The cooler and wetter conditions had the welcome impact of meaning while there have been small regional rainfall deficits there are no major parts of the country in drought.

Dr Grainger said the conditions had allowed a recovery from the 2017-19 east coast drought.

"After three years of drought from 2017 to 2019, above average rainfall last year resulted in a welcome recharge of our water storages but also some significant flooding to eastern Australia," he said.

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In spite of it being a cool year compared to recent averages, 2021 saw Australian mean temperature 0.56 °C above the 1961 to 1990 climate reference period.

The BOM said it was the 19th warmest year since national records began in 1910, but also the coolest year since 2012.

Despite the cooling impacts of the negative Indian Ocean Dipole, a period of warmer than usual ocean temperatures in the western Indian ocean, and La Nina, a period of cooling of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, 2021 was warmer than historical La Nina years.

Temperatures were above or very much above average for most of northern Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia's west coast, but below average for parts of inland New South Wales, and around the southern border of the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Rainfall was 9 per cent above the 1961 to 1990 average, making 2021 the wettest year since 2016, with November the wettest on record.

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Above average rainfall was observed for much of eastern Victoria, New South Wales, southern and central west Queensland, the western parts of Western Australia, and large parts of the far northern tropics.

As a result, significant flooding occurred across eastern Australia in March and again in November and December.

A positive from the heavy rain was the in-flows into major dams in the Murray Darling Basin, which saw significant increases of water levels, replenishing storages affected by protracted drought.

Only a few small areas saw below average rainfall, including the border region of SA and Victoria.

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Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

National Grains Industry Reporter

Gregor Heard is Fairfax Ag Media's national grains industry reporter, based in Horsham, Victoria. He has a wealth of knowledge surrounding the cropping sector through his ten years in the role. Prior to that he was with the Fairfax network as a reporter with Stock & Land. Some of the major issues he has reported on during his time with the company include the deregulation of the export wheat market, the introduction of genetically modified crops and the fight to protect growers better from grain trader insolvencies. Still involved with the family farm he is passionate about rural Australia and its people and hopes to use his role to act as an advocate for those involved in the grain sector. Away from work, he is a keen traveller, having spent his long service leave last year in Spain learning the language.

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