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March 8, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Severe Weather: Australia

This isn’t the first post on YourWeatherBlog discussing the unusual weather across Australia. From high heat to flooding to tropical cyclones, Australia is no stranger to severe or unusual weather. This time, severe thunderstorms over Melbourne delivered flooding downpours and large hail Saturday — hail the size of lemons, it was reported. You likely don’t think of Australia as a citrus haven, but a good portion of Australia is considered arid and semi-arid and lemons rather enjoy the climate, having been a part of Australian culture since the late 18th Century while providing multiple crops each year. Overall, lemons constitute about 5% of the Australian citrus market which includes limes, grapefruit, and oranges (Navels, Valencia and Mandarin), and Australian lemons are much more common than hail, no matter the size of the hail.

A stairwell in Melbourne on the receiving end of a downpour. Photo: David Crosling/EPA

The strong storm system that brought the severe weather to Australia started in the Indian Ocean and moved eastward across the Great Australian Bight then continued eastward across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. The unusual part of this storm system was the strong, well-defined upper-level trough of low pressure that was farther north than all other storm systems this time of year. On the surface, the cold front reached all the way into central Australia near Alice Springs. Remember, in the Southern Hemisphere this is late summer. If you’re more accustomed to watching the weather in the United States this sort of frontal system would be the equivalent of an early fall frontal system reaching New Orleans with enough punch to produce baseball-sized hail, then cool air pushing all the way south to Havana, Cuba. Quite a strong cold front, indeed!

On Friday, March 5, I detailed the well-defined and unusually strong upper-level low pressure system moving across the Great Australian Bight and the surface cold front moving toward Melbourne for the aviation weather video series, Aviation Weather Today.

Lemonade from lemons? Many farmers in eastern Australia are rejoicing. The early heavy rainfall is welcome. However, as the flood waters recede, damage to pastures, fences and grazing stock is likely to be higher than expected.

As the storm system continued to push eastward, news agencies from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland continued to report on the flooding conditions across these regions.



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