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    Climate of the Hunter Valley

    Typical Synoptic Situation

    Summer (from November to March)

    The high pressure systems at this time of year often lie in the Great Australian Bight and the Tasman Sea. Between these systems lies low pressures that are often associated with cold fronts. The cold fronts rapidly move along the New South Wales coastline. They are often known as the Southerly Busters and they occur approximately every 5 days. The effect of the Southerly Busters on the inland region of the Hunter Valley is minimal in comparison to the coast. 

    Trough lines, which often extend southward from Queensland, are a common occurrence over the Hunter region at this time of year. These low pressure troughs often bring unstable weather, such as rain events and thunderstorms. 

    Winter (from April to October)

    The Hunter region at this time of year is often dominated by the mid latitude westerlies. These winds are usually west to southwest in the upper Hunter, but due to the topography of the Hunter Valley, these winds often become northwestely by the time they reach the lower Hunter and the coast. The terrain of the Hunter Valley creates a funnelling flow effect on the winds. 

    Cold fronts pass through every so often, commonly approaching the Hunter region from the southwest. These cold fronts can bring showers to the inland areas and the ranges. They also bring snow at times to higher grounds. 


    The rainfall is within 1000 – 1300 mm (40 - 62 in) per annum on the coast. The rainfall from the coast drops the further you go inland. Around Maitland/Cessnock (Lower Hunter) the rainfall is between 800 – 950 mm (32 - 38 in). Singleton (mid Hunter) and the surrounding areas receive around 700 mm (28 in) and the areas around Scone (Upper Hunter) receive close to 650 mm (26 in). The highest rainfalls of the Hunter occur around the Barrington Tops. Some of the elevated and southeastern parts of the tops receives 1500 mm (60 in) or more. The driest region of the Hunter Valley is around the areas of Merriwa, where the average yearly rainfall is as low as 580 mm (23 in). In general rainfall decreases in the main valley the further away from the coast, but it increases with the elevation. 


    The temperatures vary between the coast and the inland areas all year. Generally in the winter the temperatures inland are cooler then the coast, but due to the effect of the sea breezes on the coast, the temperatures are warmer inland during the summer. Daytime averages during the winter vary from around 14-15°C (57-59°F) around the Murrurundi area, to 15-16°C (59-61°F) around Scone and 16-18°C (61-64°F) around the lower Hunter and the coast. Average overnight temperatures during winter range from as low as 2°C (36°F) in Murrurundi to milder 9°C (48°F) averages on the coast. 

    Summer daytime averages are around 30-32°C (86-90°F) in the Upper Hunter, to around 28°C-30°C (82-86°F) in the Lower Hunter. Towards the coast it is around 27°C (81°F). Temperatures of around 38°C (100°F) near the coast are not very common, but in the upper Hunter it can reach 42°C (108°F) at times during the warmer months (November to March). During heatwaves, it is common for the inland to record 3-5 days of temperatures above 35°C (95°F). Jerrys Plains, near Singleton, records the highest temperatures along with Richmond in Sydney metropolitan between the coast and the ranges in New South Wales. It has been known to reach 45°C (113°F) on rare occasions and it can have up to five consecutive days at a time where the temperature reaches above 38°C (100°F). It is typical on a hot summer day for the coast and the Lower Hunter to receive a refreshing sea breeze by the afternoon or evening. Sometimes the sea breeze can penetrate westwards and reach as far as Scone. 

    Temperatures around the Barrington Tops and other higher mountain areas would be considerably cooler then anywhere else in the Hunter due to the high elevations. Unfortunately, there is no climatic data to indicate this, although it can be estimated that average daytime temperatures on the Barrington Tops at about 1500m would be around 6°C (43°F) during winter and around 20-23°C (68°F) during the summer. 

    Frost, Snow and Thunderstorms

    There is approximately 30 days of frost a year in the upper Hunter. Places near the slopes and valleys receive around 40 to 45 frosts per year. The number of days of frost reduces to around 15 to 20 days per year towards the lower Hunter, while the coast receives 0 to 2 frosts per year on average. At times the frost can become severe, especially in the upper Hunter and on the ranges. 

    Snow mainly occurs about the Barrington Tops and some of the higher mountain areas in the Upper Hunter. Snowfalls above 1200m (4000ft) during the winter are not uncommon, however, due to the lack of reliable climatic data, it cannot be certain how many days a year would it snow. Over the years, I have worked out that it snows on average about 2 times a year to levels as low as 1000m (3300ft). On very rare occasions snow has settled as low as 400m (1300ft). The Liverpool ranges (approx. 800m/2600ft) around Murrurundi can appear to be snow capped for a day or two at times, but this only occurs approximately every two to three years. 

    There are approximately 30-40 thunderstorm days per year for the Upper Hunter, while the coast has about 20-30 days per year. Most of the thunderstorms occur during the storm season which is October to April. At times these thunderstorms can be very severe. They can produce large hail, strong winds, heavy rain and even tornados. 

    Tuesday, 25 June 2024
    © 2024 Tim Grugeon