Weather conundrum in Oz

26 November 2018 | International

Dust storms, raging bushfires, gale-force winds, heat waves, thunder and snow, flash flooding and driving rain - Australia is enduring a bout of wild weather that's hit all parts of the vast continent last week.

Varied weather is not uncommon during spring in the southern hemisphere nation as summer beckons. But rare and dramatic scenes of red dust storms shrouding towns and thundersnow - lightning strikes in thunderstorms that produce snow - in the alpine regions have left some scratching their heads. The culprit is a slow-moving low pressure system that is deeper and stronger than usual, Bureau of Meteorology expert Dean Narramore told AFP. “Ahead of the low, it's warm, it's hot, it's windy, and then behind the low, it's cold, it's wet, it's windy,” the meteorologist said. “And then the longer the air spends over the land, it dries out and goes back into the low - there's a lot happening.” The wild weather has seen flights delayed by strong winds in the country's busiest airport in Sydney on the southeastern coast, and a major storm leaving tens of thousands of homes in south Australia state without power. Meanwhile, in the northeast, Queenslanders are sweltering through a days-long heat wave, with the popular tourist town of Cairns set to reach temperatures of up to 37 degrees Celsius.

In the high country of New South Wales and Victoria states, a cold snap is bringing freezing temperatures and snowfall just a week before the summer season officially starts in December.

“It's a particularly strong system. We do get a couple of these a year, but normally in winter or early autumn. It's a little bit more unusual, but it does happen from time to time in Australia,” Narramore said. Narramore said he did not see long-term weather trends such as climate change behind the current phenomena.

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