POLAR COLD SNAP TO HIT: Snow could reach Queensland next week
A “significant weather event” is stirring that could see Australia’s south and east plunged into a full-on winter maelstrom of driving rain, flooding, pounding snow and plummeting temperatures.
The culprit is a wave of cold polar air that has detached itself from its usual track around Antarctica and is heading north on a collision course with the continent.
A meteorologist has said a “major polar outbreak” is due, which could mean a month’s rain in just 48 hours for Melbourne and the “remarkable” instance of snow beyond the usual areas extending to northern New South Wales and even creeping into Queensland.
The Perisher ski resort has announced it will open a week early due to the chilly weather.
The main weather drama is set to begin next week. As a taster, a series of cold fronts are set to sweep across the south during the weekend
For rolling coverage of Australia’s weather events, tune into Sky News Weather on Foxtel Channel 601
“Showers will move through later tonight so enjoy the sunshine poking through while you can,” said Sky News Weather meteorologist Alison Osborne.
“It will be colder on Saturday thanks to clear skies overnight which means the mercury will drop very quickly. We’re looking at temperatures below 5C in southern NSW and areas of Victoria below freezing especially over the northern country.”
Widespread frost could cover much of the south east away from the coasts on Saturday with pockets in southern Queensland.
Showers are possible across Tasmania and southern Victoria.
Major polar outbreak set to hit
However, it’s from Monday onwards that things could begin to get interesting.
“We are tracking a very significant cold weather event,” said Ms Osborne.
“Waves of cold air, known as the polar vortex, are normally wrapped around the Antarctic.
“Occasionally though, a bubble of cold air will break away from that vortex and drift up and over eastern Australia.
“When that happens at this time of year, we’re looking at a high potential for very heavy rain, windy conditions and snow.”
Called a “cold pool”, this scenario is likely to begin playing out from Monday in South Australia reaching much of NSW by midweek.
Meteorologists have warned these kinds of weather systems are “dynamic” and can change, particularly when the forecast is a few days out. Where exactly rain and snow can land is, quite literally, up in the air.
But if it does pan out as expected, it could cause all sorts of wild, wintry trouble.
‘Remarkable’ weather event
“A rain band associated with a strong cold front could sweep through South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania by Tuesday morning,” Ms Osborne said.
“By Wednesday a cut off low pressure system is set to intensify somewhere over south eastern Australia.”
This will mean snow not just for ski resorts but many non-Alpine towns such as Oberon, Orange and even Armidale, which would be a “true season starter for the snow season,” said Ms Osborne.
“By Thursday morning, there’s the potential for snow across the northern Tablelands of NSW which is remarkable, although not unheard of, and generally happens only once a year.”
That system could even dump some snow across the border into tropical Queensland.
“Away from the ranges the event will bring strong winds and widespread rain with heavy falls near a low pressure system potentially leading to flooding, possibly including Melbourne, which could be soaked by a months’ worth of rain in just 48 hours.”
Parts of Tasmania and southern Victoria may even see close to 100mm of rain.
Hobart will see showers from Monday onwards which will just get heavier with a possible 25mm by Thursday.
Windy on Kunanyi/Mount Wellington with possible snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Melbourne could see a dribble or two on the weekend with minimums down to just 4C and reaching no higher than 16C.
Monday will see a brief rise to 18C before the mercury begins to sink with lows of 6C and highs of 13C for the rest of the week.
The rain will settle in from Tuesday with potentially more than 50mm falling up to Thursday. The average June rainfall for Melbourne is only around 40mm.
Snow and lots of it are expected on the Alps, as much as 25mm on Tuesday in Mt Hotham and Falls Creek.
Perisher has said it is now open for early skiing, a week before the traditional long weekend opening date.
The resort said winter’s early arrival with subzero temperatures throughout May made it possible to welcome guests early this year.
Temperatures will sink to -2C at dawn in Canberra on the weekend, struggling to peak at 12C on Saturday and 14C on Sunday with frost likely.
From there it’s more or less downhill in the capital with Thursday potentially topping out at a mere 8C.
Rain could sweep through from Tuesday onwards with as much as 40mm falling around midweek.
A generally sunny weekend in Sydney. For the next five days highs of around 20C will be usual with overnight lows about 10C and as low as 7C on Sunday morning. Rain could be a feature from Wednesday.
The Blue Mountains could bottom out at 1C early on Monday and won’t get much above 13C all week. Wagga Wagga is looking at lows below freezing on Saturday morning and heavy rain from Tuesday onwards. Armidale could see -4C on Monday.
Warmer in comparison in Brisbane with maximums of 22C for much of the week but still cold at night, levelling out at 9C on Monday.
Roma will see several mornings at -1C for the coming week with Warwick bottoming out at zero on Monday.
Hardly warm in the west but Perth should miss the polar vortex. A high of 21C in the city on Saturday which will be whittled away to 17C by Tuesday. Lows in Perth of 7 – 9C. It will be mostly sunny but heavy falls from Wednesday onwards with up to 25mm falling between then and Thursday.
Dry and sunny in Darwin with maximums of 31C and an overnight low of 20C.