Katherine suffers one of worst wet seasons since settlement

The wet season was late to start and early to finish and without tropical cyclone Esther would have been an even bigger fizzer.
The wet season was late to start and early to finish and without tropical cyclone Esther would have been an even bigger fizzer.

It's official now - Katherine has recorded its worst ever wet season since 1951-52.

While rain measuring gauges within Katherine have moved over the years, observed rainfall in Katherine this wet season was in the lowest 10 per cent of records dating back to the late 19th century.

That places this wet season is one of the worst recorded since settlement.

The Bureau of Meteorology has crunched the numbers and found what most of us already knew, Katherine had the poorest season of anywhere in the Top End.

Tindal, which is the longest continuously measured site adjacent to Katherine, recorded its driest ever wet season in the 22 recorded seasons to date.

It received 46 per cent of its long-term average rainfall, or 457mm compared with 995mm.

The Top End's wet season was even drier than last season, and across the Territory we experienced the second hottest wet season to date, behind last season.

This wet season's hottest minimum temperatures were the third hottest on record (last wet season was the hottest, followed by 1987).

Darwin received 70 per cent of its long-term average rainfall this wet season, or 1180mm compared to 1683mm.

It is the first time since the start of records (1941-42) that for two years running less than 1200mm have been observed.

While the dry season has arrived on schedule with some chilly mornings already, the bureau says there's a medium chance of showers this Thursday in Nhulunbuy.

Katherine River today. The town council's flood watch cam on the road bridge went on the blink at least twice but wasn't needed this season, as the river just topped eight metres for a brief period. Picture: Katherine Town Council.

Katherine River today. The town council's flood watch cam on the road bridge went on the blink at least twice but wasn't needed this season, as the river just topped eight metres for a brief period. Picture: Katherine Town Council.

While the rest of the Top End is primarily dry this time of year Nhulunbuy stands out for receiving an average of 86mm of rain in May, tapering to 31mm in June, 18mm in July and 5mm in August.

"Early in the dry season there is still a fair amount of moisture in the air," a bureau spokeswoman said.

"When the easterly winds that dominate northern Australia's dry season blow across places near the coast that face east, they pick up moisture as they travel over adjacent waters, forming clouds and sometimes rain.

"Rainfall during these months often arrives in the form of 'Gulf lines' during morning hours. Gulf lines are lines of showers which typically originate over the Cape York Peninsula the previous day."

The spokeswoman said this means places like Nhulunbuy and the Gove Peninsula in the NT, and the east coast of Queensland have a much higher chance of getting rain during the northern dry season than places that are well inland or aren't near eastern coastal zones.

This season the NT experienced two cyclones and one tropical low.

Early on January 8 a tropical low crossed the NT coast 40 kilometres east of Maningrida.

While the system didn't intensify into tropical cyclone Claudia until it had traveled west to waters above WA on January 12, as it made its way across the Top End it caused intense rainfall including a new NT record daily rainfall total of 562 mm at Dum-In-Mirrie in the 24 hours to 9am on January 11.

Claudia developed into a severe tropical cyclone.

Tropical cyclone Esther was a remarkable system which traveled twice across the NT as a tropical low, first going west in late February, and then a second time going east in early March.

It brought much needed rain across agricultural land in NT's central districts. Esther first crossed the NT coast near the Queensland border on February 21 as a category 1 cyclone.

Two cyclones and one tropical low affecting the northern region is below average, in line with a below average season experienced across the Australian region.

There were seven cyclones this season across the Australian region, including four severe (Claudia, Damien, Ferdinand and Harold), and three non-severe (Blake, Esther, Gretel).

Seven cyclones are below the average number of 11 per season. The total number of cyclones in the Australian region has not been this low since 2015-16.

Top Enders have been enjoying dry season conditions since May 1, but from Thursday slightly stickier conditions are forecast, most notably in the evenings through to mornings.

The humidity is coming from moist sea breezes and a shift from dry south east winds to more humid easterlies.

Have you heard the phrase 'High in the Bight - Top Enders delight'?

High pressure systems in the Bight often lead to drier surges of cooler air reaching the Top End.

The first of the season (last weekend) was very strong and a weaker high is expected to give us another taste of the dry season next week.

This story Katherine suffers one of worst wet seasons since settlement first appeared on Katherine Times.