Climate News

2020 gets “weirder” as Australia gets blanketed by snow not seen since the ’70s

Rare levels of snowfall hit Tasmania overnight on Tuesday, August 4, blanketing the island state for the first time in years.

In Launceston, meteorologists said that snow has not settled since the 1970s. Settled snow means it forms on the ground. And while snowfall is not rare in the region, the tremendous amounts and the subsequent piling up was unprecedented in as much as decades.

Temperatures at the Launceston Airport dropped to below zero after 9 p.m. while temperatures at Scottsdale, northwest of Tasmania, reached 0.9 degrees about half an hour later.

Forecasters are calling all residents to brace for the icy weather as it is expected to continue in the next couple of days, with Launceston to have a record low of negative one and two degrees on Thursday and Friday.

Rare snowfall in several areas in Australia

People went on social media to report the rare weather.

A man tweeted, “I’m 61 years old. Never seen it snow in Launceston.”

“2020 gets weirder and weirder,” tweeted another. Other people described the settled snow as “winter wonderland” while Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino compared it to a Swiss-themed village in Launceston.

“Grindelwald – a Swiss-themed village just north of Launceston – was looking a little more Swiss than usual this morning. At 190m above sea level in northern Tasmania, this is a rare sight,” he tweeted.

He added that it was a historic event.

Snow also settled in Hobart, south of Tasmania where the last two times this happened are in 1986 and 2015. However, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Matthew Thomas said that snowfall is not uncommon in the south. The bureau also often classifies snowfall as rain if it melted fairly quickly, he added. Temperatures at Hobart are expected to get warmer at the end of the week, although they can still drop to a low of five degrees.

Certain areas in Victoria also experienced snow. The Dandenong and Yarra Ranges as well as the Alpine regions grew a few centimeters of snow while suburbs in Melbourne experienced overnight snow — an occurrence that happens once in every 10 years, according to forecasters. The chilly weather also brought some ice to Ballarat, located in the Victorian Central Highlands, where a flurry of snow blasted on the morning of August 4.

The Australian Capital Territory as well as areas in New South Wales are warned of low temperatures and strong, icy winds in the coming days. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning for the eastern and southeastern Tasmania, saying that damaging winds could reach as much as 90 to 100 km per hour.

Authorities said that the snowy weather was due to an air mass moving north from Antarctica, which crossed over Tasmania and Victoria. (Related: Extreme winter weather gives Northeast a taste of economic collapse, showing importance of being prepared.)

Cars left stranded, multiple rescues called

The surprising weather led to several stranded cars and rescues across Tasmania, with its State Emergency Service receiving almost 50 calls for help.

The heavy snow clogged Tasmania’s major highways late on Tuesday. At Spring Hill on the Midland Highway, about 40 cars were abandoned and police had to rescue many people using road graders to free them. Almost a dozen cars were stuck at Bust-Me-Gall Hill on the Tasman Highway while nearby motels were crowded with people looking for accommodations amidst the bad weather.

Lightning also struck an electricity pole that left almost 14,000 homes without power.

Meanwhile, a special rescue was conducted for a 55-year-old man about 9 p.m. on Tuesday after his boat drifted toward craggy rocks and was reported to have sank in the far south of the state. He was later found unharmed at a nearby creek. has more on recent weather disturbances.

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