Northern Territory monsoon expected to bring rainy respite for New Year’s Day revellers
Conditions are prime for a monsoon to hit Darwin on New Year’s Day, 2019. (Audience submitted: Shaun Andre)
Top End rain dancers, cast your arms skyward in relief, your work is nearly done.
- Two tropical lows are developing off the NT coast, expected to bring relief to a drier-than-average December
- Electrical storms, including a night of 91,000 lightning strikes, and squall line systems have hit the Darwin area this week
- Forecaster says he does not discount the chance of a cyclone forming off the coast during the next 10 days
New Year’s Day revellers can party to the sound of a thundering Top End monsoon, with the big rains expected to make their long-awaited arrival on January 1.
After a blisteringly hot and dry build-up season, where Darwin received just 20mm of its 256mm December average, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) today confirmed an approaching tropical low would soon bring some respite to the region.
BOM Darwin meteorologist Jackson Browne said while it was too early to call whether the conditions could trigger the Territory’s second cyclone for the season, there would be “a general enhancement of the weather by New Year’s Day”.
While one tropical low has already developed in the Arafura Sea, he said this system was just a “harbinger of a much larger circulation” expected to smack the region by January 1.
“We do have a secondary low developing, which is going to be a lot stronger, a lot deeper, a lot more robust, and within that, it will start to move towards the Territory coast and drag the monsoon trough down,” Mr Browne said.
“[It will be a] really broad scale enhancement of the weather — but at this stage it is very hard to pin down any particular location and rainfall amounts.”
First low heading to Timor
While the first tropical low was expected to bypass the Territory towards Timor, it would still bring some wet weather to the NT, Mr Browne said.
“It’s gathering strength, it’s pretty weak at the moment, it is moving west towards Timor, but due to its proximity to the Territory coastline … we will see a pickup in the weather around the Top End at least.”
The Bureau of Meteorology radar shows there is a tropical low forming in the Arafura Sea. (Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology)
The Timor-bound trough has also enabled conditions for intense “squall line” storms to pound the Top End.
“We’ve had three episodes over three nights come through — quite squally, windy, fast-moving storms coming through to Darwin,” Mr Browne said.
“It’s likely to remain that way for the rest of the week.”
Lightning show a prelude to monsoon
Territorians were treated to a celestial light show on Christmas night, with more than 91,000 lightning strikes recorded in the Darwin area.
While the Top End’s wet seasons have often been known for their spectacular electrical scenery, Mr Browne said the Christmas storms were among the most spectacular.
“That’s a pretty impressive number for an individual storm, that’s probably up in the top 1 or 2 per cent of storms — it’s great,” Mr Browne said.
“We’ve got fairly favourable conditions with that trough, so yes, a lot of the ducks lining up, a lot of the ingredients necessary for those really electrically active storms.”
Forecaster ‘doesn’t discount’ cyclone
Conditions remain volatile enough to see a cyclone form off the Territory coast in the next 10 days, according to Melbourne-based independent forecaster Dennis Luke.
There were “about half a dozen different variables” which would need to fall into place for cyclonic conditions to form, he said.
“I’m not going to discount it, but I’m not going to enhance on it either,” Mr Luke said.
Mr Luke said his computer models showed increasing activity over the next seven to 10 days across the Top End.
After an extremely hot and dry December, the monsoon is expected to make its way to Darwin. (Karl Lijnders)
“If you draw a line from say, Darwin across to Cairns, or maybe just a bit below it, to Townsville, anything in that particular region … [has the] potential of a cyclone to develop, or one or more lows to develop, and one of them becomes a cyclone,” Mr Luke said.
“It’s cyclone season and these are the ways these sort of things decide to go forward, and if they’ve got the right elements … these things are very unpredictable.”
BOM’s tropical cyclone outlook increases from a “very low” rating of less than 5 per cent probability on Thursday to a “low” rating of 5 to 20 per cent on Friday.