The Great Australian Weather Debate!

Which Australian City has the best weather?

Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart or Darwin?

The decision to write this article and to attempt to answer the Great Weather Debate came about late last year while I was enjoying my annual pilgrimage to Tathra on the NSW South Coast.   Tathra is well known for its magnificent coastline and spectacular scenery but also, as anyone who has visited the area over the Christmas break will know, famous for its interstate rivalry - particularly between NSW and Victoria.

As I was enjoying a relaxing stroll along the sand, I overheard a rather heated discussion between a Sydneysider and a Melbournian.  After discussing the virtues of everything from beer to which city had the most crawling insects, they got onto the subject of the weather.  The Sydneysider went straight for the jugular by informing the Victorian that "he had been to Melbourne once - and it rained!!"  The reply was swift - "Oh yeah - but Sydney gets twice as much rain as Melbourne does".  It was this comment that got me interested, so I decided to find out for myself just which Australian Capital City does have the best weather.

Rainfall

On checking the figures, Sydney does indeed receive nearly twice as much rain a year as Melbourne does (1,217 mm V's 653 mm).  Interestingly though, it takes Sydney an average of 138 days a year to reach its total, and Melbourne 9 more days (147) to reach its!  This would suggest that while Sydney is prone to heavy downpours, Melbourne receives more of its rain as drizzly showers.  Canberra has the least number of "rainy" days a year with 105, and Hobart the most with 160.   Tropical Darwin is Australia's wettest city with a yearly average of 1,714 mm.  In contrast, Adelaide is Australia's driest capital with an annual average rainfall of just 558 mm.

Temperatures

As far as temperatures go, not surprisingly Darwin is Australia's hottest city and Canberra the coldest.  Darwin's year round average temperature range is 23°C at night and 32°C during the day.  What may be surprising is that Darwin's highest maximum of 38.9°C is lower than all other capital cities top temperatures.  Even normally mild Hobart has hit over 40°C.  Perth has recorded the hottest temperature of any capital, with a scorching 46.2°C, closely followed by Melbourne's top of 45.6°C and Sydney's 45.3°C.

In stark contrast, temperatures in Canberra have fallen to as low as -10.0°C, with temperatures of 0°C occurring on an average of 64 nights every year.  Melbourne (-2.8°C), Hobart (-2.8°C), Adelaide (-0.4°C) and Perth (0.0C) are the only other Australian capitals to have recorded a temperature of 0°C or below.  On the other side of the coin, Darwin's coldest morning to date has been a "balmy" 10°C.

Sunshine

When you look at how much sunshine each city receives, Darwin is way out in front with a daily average of 8.5 hours.  Perth comes in second with 8.1 hours, and Canberra fairs quite well with 7.6 hours. Melbourne is Australia's least sunny capital with a daily average of just 5.7 hours of sunshine.

Wind

Wind, or more importantly its strength, can play a big part in determining which is the best city to live in.  Perth can officially be called Australia's "windy city" with a daily, year round wind speed of nearly 16 km/h, followed by Adelaide on 12.4 km/h.   Surprisingly, Canberra is by far the calmest of all the capitals with an average wind of 5.4 km/h (then again, when it does blow in Canberra during winter it surely must be the coldest in the country!).  Darwin again features in the statistics by having recorded the strongest wind gust of any Australian capital city.  During "Cyclone Tracy" on Christmas morning 1974, the Darwin weather bureau recorded wind gusts of up to 216.7 km/h.  To indicate the magnitude of this type of wind strength, the next biggest wind gust recorded in an Australian capital has been 155.5 km/h in Perth, some 61.2 km/h less than the winds experienced in Darwin.

Fog

One statistic no one living in Canberra would be surprised to read is that the Nations Capital is by far the foggiest of the capitals.  Canberra receives an average of 47 fogs a year, with several during the winter months that don't begin to clear until after mid-day.  Brisbane ranks second with 20 fogs a year, Melbourne third with 18, but Darwin is Australia's least foggy city with an average of only 2 fogs a year.

And the winner is?

At the risk of upsetting you I won't attempt to pick the "best" city (a chicken aren't I?).  Rather, although the following table may not conclusively answer "The Great Weather Debate", it can be used to statistically prove a few points, and it might just win you a bet or two!!

Table last updated on 13 October, 2004.

Alt (m) Yearly ave min°c Yearly ave max°c Lowest temp°c Highest temp°c Annual rain (mm) Annual "clear" days Annual "cloudy" days Annual "rainy" days Annual "thunder" days Annual "fogs" Average daily sun (hrs) Average daily wind (km/h) Strongest wind (km/h) Years records kept
Canberra
578
6.4
19.6
-10.0
42.2
622.8
99
128
105
23
47
7.6
5.4
127.8
65
Sydney
39
13.7
21.6
2.1
45.3
1,217.0
102
134
138
24
15
6.8
11.6
150.1
145
Melbourne
31
10.1
19.8
-2.8
45.6
653.2
49
180
147
13
18
5.6
11.7
120.6
149
Brisbane
38
15.7
25.5
2.3
43.2
1,146.4
40
42
122
33
20
7.5
10.5
144.7
99
Adelaide
48
12.1
22.1
-0.4
44.3
558.1
87
145
121
15
4
7.6
12.4
101.9
27
Perth
19
13.3
23.3
0.0
46.2
869.4
131
114
120
13
8
8.1
15.6
155.5
95
Hobart
51
8.3
16.8
-2.8
40.8
619.5
41
174
160
5
6
5.9
11.7
150.1
122
Darwin
30
23.2
31.9
10.4
38.9
1,713.9
101
132
111
74
2
8.5
10.1
216.7
63

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© Gungahlin Weather Centre - March 2002.