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Melbourne Weather Hazards - Know The Best Time To Travel



Most locals will tell you that Melbourne weather can have four seasons in a day.

However, this statement isn't entirely accurate since many days will pass where you won't see a cloud in the sky and the Melbourne weather will be perfect.


If you're thinking of travelling to Melbourne, make sure you take some warmer clothing even if it's during the summer. As you know, the Melbourne weather conditions vary considerably from day-to-day and so my best advice is to wear your clothing in layers.

Even so, this still makes deciding what to wear a challenging task at times.

Oh yes, just one final point before we dive into this topic.

Remember since Melbourne is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are the opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere.




What's the weather in Melbourne normally like in a particular month?

Melbourne gardens

Click on the month below to obtain detailed weather information:


January | February | March

April | May | June

July | August | September

October | November | December




Topics covered on this page





Heat Waves - Typical Summer Melbourne Weather

In summer there's at least six heat waves in Melbourne where the temperatures ranges between 35°C - 44°C. These high temperatures normally last for 3-5 days straight. This duration of hot weather is replaced by a 20°C drop in temperature and this occurs over a short period of time (around 30 minutes).

At the end of January and early February 2009, Melbourne experienced an extreme heat wave. Melbourne recorded six nights where the minimum temperature didn't drop below 20°C. This heat wave also set the record for the first time in Melbourne when the daytime temperature exceeded 43°C for three consecutive days.


Kids playing under fountains during hot weather in Melbourne

Six facts about hot Melbourne weather:

  1. The highest temperature ever recorded in Melbourne city is 46.4°C, which occurred on the 7th February 2009. In fact, this temperature is the highest recorded maximum temperature for any capital city in Australia. This day was not associated with a heat wave since the daytime temperatures the previous day and the following day were not particularly high.

  2. The second highest daytime maximum temperature is 45.6°C back on the 13th January 1939 during a period of bush fires and severe drought.

  3. During a heat wave, the temperature for most of the night is in excess of 30°C and it normally doesn't drop much below this until just before sunrise. So in that case, the only way you can sleep properly is with the help of an air conditioner.

  4. Just before a heat wave is about to break you'll notice that there's a dramatic increase in the wind coming from the north west. So if you notice this, then you can be sure that much cooler Melbourne weather is on the way in a matter of hours.

  5. If the winds aren't too strong, you may be lucky to feel the cooling effects of a sea-breeze during the late afternoon. But in most cases the hot weather is relentless until the arrival of a much cooler air mass.

  6. So the main point here is if you're really keen to travel to Melbourne during the summer, and you want to avoid the really hot Melbourne weather then try and make sure that you avoid both January and February. It's these months that are most likely to get heat waves or a day or two of extremely hot weather.






Droughts

Drought is very common in Melbourne and can start at any time of the year. These drought conditions can last four to five years. The Melbourne weather conditions are controlled to a certain extent by the drought. If there's no rain then soil moisture levels drop and daytime temperatures are able to rise considerably higher than normal. That's why in the last few years the summer temperatures have been well above average in Melbourne.

However, it's during the hotter months of the year that the drought appears at its worst since excessive heat quickly evaporates soil moisture levels as well as the Melbourne dam levels. These dams are the main source of Melbourne's drinking water.

Furthermore, the prolonged drought conditions in Melbourne (and throughout southern Australia) have lead to the introduction of water restrictions throughout Melbourne and its suburbs.





Bush Fires

The the worst bushfire tragedy in Australia's history occurred on the same day that Melbourne recorded its highest ever temperature. This day led to fierce bushfires (mainly lit by arsonists) just outside Melbourne's outer northern and eastern suburbs as well as in other parts of Victoria. These fires led to the temporary destruction of the townships of Marysville and Kinglake. Many people didn't have time to flee since the flames travelled in excess of 80 km/hr and swept through townships without warning. Sadly these bushfires claimed 210 lives and left thousands of people homeless. This day is known as the Black Saturday bushfires.

Bushfire near Rokeby

Most of Melbourne suburban region isn't directly affected by bush fires but the nearby hills to the east of the city (known as the Dandenong Ranges) are particularly vulnerable to fire outbreaks. The large fires that affect this area typically occur from December into February and coincide with heat waves and the drought.

The Dandenong Ranges are located about 50 kilometres east of Melbourne city. The area is around 300-600 metres above-sea-level and is covered in temperate rainforest intermingled with charming little towns throughout. During a heat wave, you'll find that this area is much cooler than Melbourne. Since the Dandenong Ranges is a tourist attraction, many people are at risk during the hot summer months.

One of the worst bushfires to affect the Dandenong Ranges occurred back on the 14-16th January 1962 when 454 houses were burnt to the ground. During this time, these fires crept into the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and caused mass panic in Mitcham, Warrandyte, and The Basin.


The next major fire hit the Dandenongs on the 19th February 1968. Thankfully only 53 houses and 10 buildings were destroyed in this one but the countryside was turned to ash. Once again, an outer eastern Melbourne suburb called The Basin was severely affected. More recently on the 21st January 1998, at least five fires were in progress which destroyed 41 houses and three people died.

I'm not trying to scare you from travelling to the Dandenongs but just be aware that if you travel here during the summer months (December, January and February), you just have to be careful. Outside of these months, you can travel up to the Dandenong's without any worry.





Severe Thunderstorms

Stormy Melbourne weather doesn't occur very often. Melbourne is occasionally subject to severe weather events like hail storms and very heavy rain leading to flash flooding, but these are occur once every five years or so.

Melbourne normally has around 5-10 thunderstorms every year and these occur both in the winter and the summer. Most of these storms aren't severe and you may not even know there's one outside until you're outside.

You might even laugh when you hear the locals say that it's hailing outside because the hail here is so small. Normally the local 'hail event' occurs in the winter months. This so-called hail is in fact graupel, which is made up of frozen snowflakes. Such an event occurred during the early hours of the morning on 25th December 2006 and was confined to the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Many people think that such an event was snow but it was in fact graupel. The snow level that day was 600 metres above sea-level.

In light of this, Melbourne did actually get hit by a severe thunderstorm which was accompanied by large hail (up to 7cm in diameter over the far eastern suburbs) back on the 6th March 2010.




Dust storms

Dust storms do cause problems in many areas of central Australia but rarely hit Melbourne. The most recent severe dust storms to pass over Melbourne occurred on the 8th February 1983 around midday. This dust storm turned the sky from day-to-night since the dust was so thick. Since it passed right through the city, every form of transport was forced to stop operating. Occasionally, you'll see a splattering of mud on your car since the dust got caught up in the rain. But other than that, you won't see much dust.




How many times have you heard that Melbourne weather is always rainy?

Melbourne tram

Contrary to what most people say, it doesn't rain all the time in Melbourne. In fact, Melbourne's rainfall is about half that of both Sydney and Brisbane. From 1996, Melbourne recorded fourteen consecutive years of well below average rainfall, which is the longest run of dry years since records began.

During the spring and summer, most of the rain occurs in short heavy bursts but as I mentioned much earlier, you may get four seasons in a day.

However, during the cooler months it's far more common to have light drizzle all day. Since most of the day is cloudy in the winter, you won't really know if you're going to get wet or not. So my advice is take an umbrella and other wet weather clothing just in case.

Overall Melbourne has an even distribution of rain throughout the year. However, since Melbourne (like the rest of Australia is subject to harsh droughts), it doesn't always rain when it's meant to.

Rainfall totals in the city of Melbourne are different to the outlying suburbs. The western side of Melbourne is subject to the rain-shadow effect and so that region normally only receives 500mm a year. The city records a little over 650mm and the eastern suburbs (around 700-850mm annually).





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