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Annual Climate Statement 2022: Australia's ninth-wettest year on record

Annual Climate Statement 2022: Australia's ninth-wettest year on record

The Annual Climate Statement shows 2022 was warmer and wetter than average for Australia overall. While it was the ninth-wettest year on record since 1900, with above average rainfall for the country as a whole, there was considerable variation across regions. Persistent rain on saturated catchments brought significant flooding to large parts of eastern Australia at multiple times throughout the year.

For 2022, the national rainfall total was 587.8 mm, 26% above the 1961–1990 average of 466.0 mm.

Australia's area-averaged mean temperature for 2022 was 0.50 °C above the 1961–1990 average.

Video: Watch this short video for an overview of Australia's climate in 2022.

Weather events of the year

Notable weather events in 2022 include:

  • tropical cyclones Seth, Tiffany and Ellie
  • heatwaves across northern and central coasts of Queensland, and northern parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory
  • record-breaking rainfall in some areas
  • intense, persistent rainfall that led to flooding in large parts of eastern Australia at multiple times throughout the year.

The 22nd-warmest year on record for Australia

The 2022 annual mean temperature for Australia as a whole was 0.50 °C warmer than the 1961–1990 average despite it being our coolest year since 2012.

Annual mean temperatures for 2022 were warmer than average for most of northern Australia, large parts of the west and north of Western Australia, Tasmania, most of Victoria, and south-east South Australia. Most of the northern tropics experienced very much above average annual mean temperatures.

However, the annual mean temperature was cooler than average across a large area of central to northern New South Wales, west of the ranges.

Map showing Australia's rainfall as described in text.

Map: Australia's temperature in 2022

Warm conditions prevailed for much of the year, with large parts of Australia experiencing warmer than average temperatures for most months. It was especially warm in far northern Australia, with above or very much above average mean minimum and maximum temperatures and extreme heatwave conditions in some parts of the tropics during August, September, October and December.

Persistent rain sees significant flooding and high inflows to water storages

In 2022, rainfall was above average for Australia as a whole. The area-average annual total rainfall was 587.8 mm, 26% above the 1961–1990 average of 466.0 mm, making it the ninth-wettest year on record for Australia (compared to all years since 1900).

Most of mainland Australia experienced above average rainfall, with the south-eastern quarter of the mainland, excluding the southern coast of Victoria and the south-east of South Australia, seeing very much above average.

Rainfall for the year was also very much above average for parts of the east coast of Tasmania, parts of inland central Queensland and northern Cape York Peninsula, the south-eastern quarter of the Northern Territory, and much of the eastern half of the Kimberley in Western Australia.

However, in western Tasmania, much of the north of the Northern Territory, and the far south-west of Western Australia rainfall was below average.

Map showing Australia's rainfall as described in text.

Map: Australia's rainfall in 2022

Generally wetter than average conditions over much of the east coast and parts of the Murray–Darling Basin during summer 2021–22 and through to the end of March resulted in high inflows to many major storages in the Murray–Darling Basin. Continued periods of very much above average or highest on record rainfall across most of the Basin saw many of its storages reaching or exceeding capacity by the end of the year.

Intense and sustained rainfall in February and March in south-eastern Queensland and eastern New South Wales resulted in rapid filling of major storages, with Wivenhoe Dam, the largest in south-east Queensland, reaching full capacity for the first time since June 2015.

What influenced Australia's climate in 2022?

Australia's 2022 rainfall and temperature patterns were consistent with the long-term warming trend and the impact of the natural climate drivers around us.

To our east, the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific was in the La Niña phase at the start of 2022. Declared in spring 2021, La Niña peaked in late January and declined over autumn. Oceanic indicators of ENSO returned to neutral (neither La Niña nor El Niño) during mid-to-late autumn, although some atmospheric indicators continued to show a La Niña-like signal at the end of June. Signs of La Niña development emerged again from late winter, with a third successive La Niña becoming established by early September 2022. This La Niña persisted for the remainder of 2022.

La Niña is typically associated with:

  • an increased likelihood of above average rainfall for northern and eastern Australia during spring and summer
  • an increased likelihood of cooler days and nights for north-east Australia
  • longer duration heatwaves and warm spells in south-east Australia during the warm season, but with lower peak intensity.

To the south, the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) was positive for much of the year from mid-autumn, and strongly positive at times during both winter and spring. SAM is often positive during La Niña. During 2022, the persistently positive SAM was also boosted by a strong polar vortex over Antarctica.

The influence of a positive SAM varies with the seasons:

  • winter – associated with below-average rainfall for parts of south-west and south-east Australia (including Tasmania)
  • spring – associated with above-average rainfall over much of New South Wales
  • late spring and summer – associated with above-average rainfall for parts of eastern New South Wales, eastern Victoria, and south-eastern Queensland, and below average rainfall in west-facing coastal areas (particularly western Tasmania).

To the west, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) was in a negative phase during winter and spring.

During a negative IOD there is an increased likelihood of:

  • above-average winter–spring rainfall over eastern and southern Australia
  • below-average maximum temperatures across southern Australia
  • warmer than average temperatures across northern Australia.

A combination of negative IOD and La Niña increases the likelihood of:

  • above-average rainfall over Australia, particularly for the eastern half of the continent
  • warmer nights for northern Australia
  • cooler days for much of the eastern mainland.

In addition to natural variability, Australia's climate is increasingly affected by global warming.

Our annual mean temperature has warmed on average by 1.47 ± 0.24 °C between 1910 and 2021. Most of the warming has occurred since 1950.

Ocean waters around Australian have also warmed significantly over the past century. The average sea surface temperature has risen by 1.05 °C since 1900, and 8 of the 10 warmest years on record occurred since 2010.

Based on data from 6 leading international datasets, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that 2022 was the fifth- or sixth-warmest year on record globally. This was despite there being a La Niña, which typically keeps global temperatures cooler than during ENSO-neutral (neither La Niña nor El Niño) or El Niño periods. The WMO stated that the average global mean temperature for 2022 was 1.15 °C above the pre-industrial (1850–1900) baseline. It's the eighth consecutive year where global annual temperatures have reached at least 1 °C above pre-industrial levels.

The background warming trend and climate change is further discussed in State of the Climate 2022.

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