Putting Daily Temperature in Context

In this post I demonstrate a simple way of comparing current temperatures for a particular location with those previously recorded.  In this way it is possible to show the climatic context.

Using data from Climate Data Online, I plot maximum temperature for each day of the year, and then for a particular short period: in this case the last week of November and the first week of December, which coincides with the recent very warm spell here in Queensland.  To account for leap and ordinary years this period is 15 days.  In ordinary years 24th November is Day 328 and 7th December is Day 341, while in leap years this same calendar period is Day 329 to 342.  I also calculate the running 7 day mean TMax for this period, and the number of consecutive days above 35C.

To put the recent heatwave in context, I have chosen six locations from Central and Southern Queensland which regularly feature on ABC-TV weather: Birdsville, Charleville, Roma, Longreach, Ipswich (Amberley RAAF), and Rockhampton.

Birdsville:

Fig. 1

whole-yr-birdsville

The Police Station data are from 1954 to 2005, and the Airport from 2000.  This shows the range of temperatures throughout the year.  The red arrow indicates the current period.   The next plot shows data only for the period in question.

Fig. 2:  24 November- 7 December: Airport data

14d-comp-birdsville-air

Note there were three days where the temperature this year was the highest for those days since 2000, but didn’t exceed the highest in this time period, which was in November.  The other days were well within the historic range.

For interest, let’s now see how this year compares with the Police Station record.  (The average difference in TMax during the overlap period was 0.0 to 0.3C.)

Fig. 3:  24 November- 7 December: Police Station data

14d-comp-birdsville-police

In a similar range.

Fig. 4

7d-avg-birdsville

This heatwave was the third hottest since 2000 and fifth overall.

Fig. 5

days-over-35-birdsville-air

Five previous periods had more consecutive days above 35C.  2006 had 22.

Charleville:

Fig. 6: Charleville Aero since 1942

whole-yr-charleville-aero

Temperatures in this period reached the extremes of the range on three days.

(Although the Post Office record begins in 1889, there are too many errors in the overlap period so the two records can’t be compared.)

Fig. 7:

14d-charleville-aero

A new record for early December was set, but note this was the same temperature as 29th November 2006.

Fig. 8:

7d-avg-charleville-aero

Definitely the hottest for this period since 1942.

Fig. 9:

days-over-35-charleville-aero

Note this was not the longest warm spell by a mile: there were many previous periods with up to 26 consecutive days above 35C.

Roma

Fig. 10:

whole-yr-roma

Although there is not one day of overlap so the two records can’t be compared, you can see that Airport (from 1992) and Post Office records are similar.

Fig. 11:

14d-comp-roma-air

A new record for this time of year was set: 44.4C, and six days in a row above 40C.  Pretty hot….

Fig. 12:

days-over-35-roma-air

…but there were longer hot periods in the past (since 1992).

Longreach

Fig. 13:  Longreach Aero since 1966.

whole-yr-longreach-aero

Fig. 14:

14d-longreach-aero

Hot, but no record.

Although there is good overlap with the Post Office, temperatures for this period differ too much: from -1 to +0.7C.

Fig. 15:

7d-avg-longreach-aero

Fifth hottest period since 1966.

Fig. 16:

days-over-35-longreach-aero

And in the past there have been up to 47 consecutive days above 35C at this time of year.

Ipswich (Amberley RAAF):

Fig. 17:

whole-yr-amberley

Fig. 18:

14d-amberley

Not unusually hot for this time of year.

Fig. 19:

7d-avg-amberley

Ninth hottest since 1941.

Fig. 20:

days-over-35-amberley

Hotter for longer in the past.

Rockhampton:

Fig. 21:

whole-yr-rocky

Fig. 22:

14d-rocky-air

Very hot, but no records.  (The heat lasted another two days, with 36.6 and 37.3 on 8th and 9th.)

Fig. 23:

7d-avg-rocky

Fourth hottest 7 day average on record (since 1939).

Fig. 24:

days-over-35-rocky-air

Again, a number of hot days, but there were as many and more in the past.

To conclude: the recent heatwave was very hot certainly, and was extreme in southern inland Queensland.  While Charleville had the highest seven day mean temperature on record, NO location had as many consecutive hot days (above 35C) as in the past.

This is a handy method for showing daily data in context.  It can used for any period of the year, can be tuned to suit (I chose TMax above 35C, but temperatures below a set figure could be found), and can be used for any daily data.

If you would like a comparison done for a location that interests you, let me know in comments including time period and parameters of interest (e.g. Sydney, first 2 weeks of December, TMax above 30C say, or Wangaratta, September, daily rainfall over 10mm say.)

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4 Responses to “Putting Daily Temperature in Context”

  1. Jennifer Marohasy Says:

    thanks for this. jen

  2. Macha Says:

    Excellent constrast and perspectives.

  3. Brad Wrightson Says:

    Yet another enlightening post. Many thanks for your wonderful efforts!! If you were so inclined to make a similar treatment of selected NSW locations for the same periods, then that would be really interesting I think. Mainly because NSW wasn’t in ‘heatwave’ – so it would be good to contrast an extreme (QLD) to an ordinary (NSW) for the same period, in context. Thanking you in advance.

    • kenskingdom Says:

      Gday Brad
      I’ve looked at Bourke, Moree, and Gunnedah Resource Centre. Bourke and Moree have short records (since 1999 and 1995, and with missing data) and Gunnedah from 1948.
      Results not different from Queensland: very hot, a record hot day for Bourke and Moree, but all have fewer consecutive hot days than the past, and 7 day means no hotter than the past.

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