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Climate observations

Key Messages

  • Climate is the long-term pattern of prevailing weather conditions (rainfall, temperature etc.) for a particular locality or region, while weather refers to the state of the atmosphere at or for a brief period of time. Seasonal variations such as the location and intensity of the summer monsoon and year-to-year fluctuations in the global climate system related to the El Niño Southern Oscillation phenomenon strongly influence Queensland’s climate.

    In Queensland, El Niño is often — though not always — associated with below average rainfall throughout winter, spring and summer. La Niña, the opposite of El Niño, is often linked to an increased risk of above average rainfall, floods and tropical cyclones.

  • Statistics describing historical climate variability help us to better understand Queensland’s climate, especially in regard to agricultural and water resources. For example, with an understanding of historical climate variability and its drivers, climate outlooks can be developed using statistical modelling for specific periods (i.e. the summer wet season). This helps decision-makers plan for future drought and flood events.

  • Queensland’s highly variable and changing climate is increasingly influencing the severe weather events we experience as they are occurring in a more energetic climate system. Whilst overall precipitation rates have fallen, long-term observations have shown that there has been a net increase in the number of heavy to extreme precipitation events since 1951. Such increases have and will continue to yield occurrences of associated major flooding events; the 2019 North Queensland monsoon trough event being the most notable. Whilst severe thunderstorms are a long-standing feature of Queensland's climate, a more energetic climate has resulted in an observed increase in the most damaging severe storm events.


Annual rainfall

Drier than normal conditions prevailed across large parts of Queensland over the period from 2013 to 2019, with many areas experiencing drought.

Evaporation rate

Annual evaporation is typically much higher in inland parts of Queensland than in coastal and sub-coastal areas.

Mean annual temperature

2015 to 2019 was Queensland’s warmest 5-year period on record.

Extreme weather events (‘hot’ days)

Hot days were more frequent than average at several inland locations over the 2013 to 2018 period.

Extreme weather events (days with ‘very heavy rainfall’)

While days with ‘very heavy rainfall’ are rare in parts of south-western Queensland, they are common along Queensland’s north-eastern seaboard.


Extent of drought declarations in Queensland

Queensland was free of drought-declarations for 2 years until April 2013. The current drought period (April 2013–April 2020) continues its ninth successive year, with 67% of the state declared. Insufficient effective rainfall and pasture growth occurred over this period, despite occasional flood events occurring.

Heatwave events

The frequency, intensity and duration of all heatwaves over the past decade has exceeded predictions for 2030. This has and is likely to increasingly impact all sectors of Queensland’s communities.

Fire weather and associated bushfire hazard

Between 1950 to 2018, Queensland saw an overall pattern of increased severity in the fire-weather season due to climate change, with the exception of small pockets of the north and west.

Severe weather events and associated flooding hazard

Since 2010, Queensland has been directly impacted by 8 severe tropical cyclones and more than 20 cyclones of other intensities. While state-wide trends must be treated with caution, in general, observations suggest there has been a rise in extreme severe weather events due to climate change and that tropical cyclones are travelling slower and southward, with increasing rainfall intensity giving rise to potentially extreme associated flooding.

Earthquake hazard

While earthquakes pose a much lower threat to Queensland communities than many other populated regions of the world, the state’s south-east is the most at risk of experiencing an earthquake.


Rainfall monitoring

The Bureau of Meteorology provides high quality Australian rainfall data sets from 1900 to the most recent calendar year. The data is available for daily or monthly time scales. Information is available for rainfall totals, percentages, deciles, drought, anomalies, and 1 year, 2 year, 3 year differences.

Weather station data

Weather stations monitor and record information on rainfall, evaporation and air temperature.

Annual climate statement

The annual climate statement discusses the long-term trends in Australia’s climate. The statement focuses primarily on climate observations and monitoring carried out by the Bureau of Meteorology and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in the Australian region.