Pilbara region bakes in record March heat

By Peter Nelson

During the past week the Pilbara region in WA baked in record high temperatures for the month of March.

At Port Hedland the temperature reached 45.3 degrees on last Wednesday 28th March and this was the hottest March day since 2005 and easily the hottest for late March in 105 years of records.

Roebourne and Mardie both recorded 45.9 also the hottest on record for late March. There were 16 days at Port Hedland when the temperature reached 40 degrees or more and this broke the previous record of 13 days in March of 1953.

The mean maximum temperature for this March at Port Hedland was 39.7 and this easily broke the previous hottest March on record which was 38.7 in 2014. Overall, there was only one hotter month at Port Hedland.

This one was November 1990 when the mean maximum was 40.6 and the following month December was significantly hotter than normal; it was the hottest December in Coonabarabran for 33 years.

From the records at Port Hedland a listing of significant hotter than average March over the last 105 years did see a warmer than average April to May period in our regions and in few cases saw this above normal warmth continue into June like it did in 1991 when heavy rain fell that year at the end of January and then very dry in February and March in our regions which has happened this year.

Adelaide has just completed it's driest January to March period with only 19 mm since 1989 and most of the previous cases of very dry January to March periods in Adelaide led to above normal warmth in our region in both April and May and two of these led to a warm June as well.

Many of these dry January to March periods in Adelaide did lead to significant rainfalls close to Mid April and more of the same near the end of April and again early May and the third week of that month in our area.

Whilst the Pilbara baked in record late march heat near record flood rains have fallen in North tropical QLD. Cairns has had 848 mm in March, Port Douglas had a record March rainfall of 1252 mm whilst South Johnstone received 1392.4 mm which was it's wettest March since 1921.

That year was warmer and wetter at most places during both April and May in our regions. Nearly every case of the previous flood rainfalls in North Qld during the month of March did not occur simultaneously with very hot conditions in the Pilbara region of WA.

The one standout case was 1953 when Cairns received over 2000 mms during the first three months of that year whilst Port Hedland in March of 1953 then had it's greatest number of days over 40 on record.

To date the weather conditions in our area since late February, warm to hot and very dry has been very similar to the corresponding period in 1953. In April 1953 there was a warm to hot spell during the second week with some thunderstorm activity bringing some moderate rainfalls at some places, then another warm spell which did lead to a record late April heat in Sydney and then rain early May of 1953, the heaviest at some places since the summer.