"SNOW!!:10th August 2003 Snow in a northerly?!?!?!"

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"SNOW!!:10th August 2003 Snow in a northerly?!?!?!"
(quote from Tim Thorpe on his website hillsrain.com)

Summary.

On Sunday 10th August snow was reported from the southern Flinders Ranges (I don't know where in particular); from the Mid-North near Moculta and at Whyte-Yarcowie and at Peterborough, Hallett and Jamestown and Yongala; in the Mount Lofty Ranges sleet with some flakes on the Mt Lofty summit, at Stirling ("It's 5.30 and snowing at Stirling, temp 3.5c outside!"), and the temperature at the Mt Crawford AWS fell to 0.1 degrees which suggests snow fell there; on Fleurieu Peninsula a few snowflakes were reported in the Bull Creek Ranges near Meadows. I deduce from a Bureau of Meteorology report that snow was reported from Ororoo. I red a second-hand report that the "ABC Radio reports snow in several hills locations".

Likely causes: Rare combination of meteorological factors (for SA): Cold night then high cloud becoming thicker during day, extensive areas of rain in the NW extending to most other districts. Snow from high cloud falling into drier air, with evaporative cooling of the snow lowering the air temperature until cold enough for snow to reach the ground on some of the highest parts of the Mid North, Flinders Ranges and Mt Lofty Ranges.

Rating on SA-wide 'snow distribution and amount' scale (min 1 to max 10) : 4 or 5

End of summary

My report on the event.

In one of the most unlikely snow events I've encountered in SA's recorded history, on Sunday 10th August 2003 light snow was recorded on high ground in many places in South Australia with a north-east to northerly wind blowing! This was no deep southerly or south-westerly airstream bringing cold unstable air from the far southern ocean, but a quite different weather system.

I recorded the following in my weather diary of the time: "weather Sunday 10-8-03 light snow reported from several places in the central and northern Mount Lofty Ranges, Mid North and southern Flinders Ranges, near record low maximums in some places" and "... a consequence of a high over the eastern states and a small low near the head of the bight. cloud - a cover of high cloud early, slowly becoming thicker during the day, shutting out the sun all day, extensive areas of rain in the nw of the state early, extending to most other districts by late".

Apparently, snow was falling from the high cloud into drier air underneath, and evaporative cooling of the snow lowered the temperature of the air until it was cold enough for snow to reach the ground on some of the highest parts of the Mid North, Flinders Ranges and Mt Lofty Ranges. I'm not certain but I think that explanation was given by one of the BoM meteorologists.

My guess is that falling snowflakes were considerably under-reported in the Flinders Ranges, and the higher summits of the Mid-North and the northern Mt Lofty Ranges. Who is standing on summits such as Mt Bryan, Mt Remarkable, Mt Brown, and Mt Cone on a freezing cold winter day with rain falling and a chilling wind blowing to observe and report snow falling? If snow falling on the upper parts of mountains and hills doesn't leave a cover visible from afar then it most likely won't be reported. I don't recall seeing any reports of snow cover for this event.

Here are the reports and comments on the event I've been able to find in the records.

The Bureau of Meteorology commented on the event in their "Monthly Significant Weather Summaries ... " on the page http://www.bom.gov.au/inside/services_policy/public/sigwxsum/sigw0803.shtml#snow
{quote}
SIGNIFICANT WEATHER - AUGUST 2003 ...
"SNOW
South Australia
On the 10th snow fell at many places in the mid-north, between the Barossa Valley and Orroroo. Snowfalls were also reported from near Port Pirie, in the Lower North, and also from higher elevations in the Southern Flinders Ranges and the Mount Lofty Ranges."
{end quote}

Tim Thorpe reported on the event on his website http://hillsrain.com on the page http://www.hillsrain.com/Weather_Station/Events/Events10.shtml#10-08-03

{quote}
"SNOW!!:10th August 2003"
Snow in a northerly?!?!?! A Cold day, one of the coldest on record for August spoiled us with some snow! Our top temp was 4.7 degrees. Hovering between 3 and 4 all day with a bitterly cold North wind. Snow was reported in several centres with some of the rain collectors on this site emailing the following reports:

From Moculta -"It has been snowing here since 4.30pm. Snow from the northeast - now that is something we have never had here before! Our last snow fall was in July 1998. Has been 3 or 4 degrees for most of the day - one of the coldest I can ever remember" ...

From this website location [in Bull Creek Ranges near Meadows] -"it snowed - just a little bit, but actual snow flakes. As soon as it hit the ground it melted."

and Stirling -"It's 5.30 and snowing at Stirling, temp 3.5c outside!" ...

Perhaps best summed up from the BOM summary
"thick cloud cover following a cold night resulted in unusually cold temperatures persisting in most districts today, with several reports of light snow falling about higher ground in the northern Mount Lofty and southern Flinders Ranges. Maximum temperatures up until 3 pm were near record lows at several centres, with 4 degrees at Mount Crawford, 5 degrees at Yongala and 6 degrees at Clare, Arkaroola and Hawker. The highest maximum temperature was 21 degrees at Marla"
{end of quote}

A brief article in The Advertiser:

{quote}
Edition 2 - MetroMON 11 AUG 2003, Page 004
Coldest August day in 25 years
TEMPERATURES plummeted around South Australia yesterday with snow falling in the Mid North. It came as Adelaide recorded its coldest August day in 25 years.
Snow was reported at Peterborough, Hallett and Jamestown. There were also falls in the Adelaide Hills on Saturday night. Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Duncan Tippins said the snowfalls were a very light dusting.
... for Adelaide, the temperature peaked at just 10.8C about 3pm yesterday. It was Adelaide's coldest since June 1999 and the coldest August day since 1978.
Whyalla and Broken Hill also experienced the coldest days on record with 8C and 7.7C respectively."
{end quote}

I'm dubious about the observation in the above Advertiser article "There were also falls in the Adelaide Hills on Saturday night." I've seen no other reference to any snowfalls in the Adelaide Hills on Saturday night. I think it should have red simply "There were also falls in the Adelaide Hills".

There's a 4-page Weatherzone forum thread titled "SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th" [2003], address http://forum.weatherzone.com.au/ubbthreads.php/topics/719846/1
Below I quote all or parts of several of the most relevant posts from the thread in the sequence in which they were posted.

#719830 - 10/08/2003 11:34 AM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
Weathernut
"Is there any snow falling on the Flinders Ranges? confused"

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#719832 - 10/08/2003 12:06 PM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
teckert
"YES there are currently reports of snow falling in the southern Flinders!!!!! Radio has reports f snow in the Hallett/Terowie region. eek
BLOODY FREEZING here atm!!!
Possible sleet in the Adelaide Hills even if the temp stays as low as what it is up there."

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#719834 - 10/08/2003 12:27 PM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
teckert
"Just been on the phone to my cousins at Whyte-Yarcowie (south of Peterborough - near Terowie). Their altitude is about 700m and it is currently snowing at their house but not settling!!!!
Apparently though they have accounts of snow throughout the southern Flinders and settling in many areas!!!"

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#719835 - 10/08/2003 12:37 PM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
Craig Arthur
"Well I'll be! Snow in SA in a northerly! eek In most cases you'd expect snow on the Flinders/Mt Lofty's in a southerly/cold outbreak, but this is just phenomenal. Woomera and Adelaide soundings showed the freezing level below 800 hPa this morning and lapse rates below that negligible (so surface temps aren't much higher which we all know). Yongola (515m) reported rain & snow at 11:30 CST with a temp of 2.9 [degrees] C. Record low maxes look like being broken at numerous sites - Marree, Strathalbyn, Yongola, Broken Hill...many will depend on the temps tomorrow morning though."

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#719838 - 10/08/2003 12:54 PM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
Weathernut
"That has to be an April Fools joke right. confused laugh"

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#719842 - 10/08/2003 04:23 PM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
Hector
"What's interesting is that there was a significant cooling the lower parts of the atmosphere prior to the snow but the wind direction was NE, which seems a bit weird.
Hec"

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#719845 - 10/08/2003 05:33 PM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
paisley
"Well hey all. What a day in SA eh? Who would have thunk it? One of those rare days in SA where bitterly cold temps equate with a northerly and no sun at all. Just back from Mt Lofty, where it was freezing - literally - but a very different feel to a southerly outbreak. No contrast between the inside of a coldie and the bright sun inbetween - just a freezing northerly, a fairly high cloudbase, and sleet. Saw Tim E on the summit. A channel 7 cameraman was there presumably waiting for it to snow, and it may have well done so by now as the rain has got heavier - although we have run out of light. This scenario reminds me a bit of events in May 1981, Jun 1989, and October 1994(5?) which brought lots of snow to the Flinders...
Coldest August day here in 25 years - snow reports from all over the place. Now raining steadily in Adelaide...
Phil"

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Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th #719846 - 10/08/2003 06:43 PM
Thunderstruck
"This weather...its just ape!!! Totally warped I mean we are
getting record lows and snow in fresh northerly winds!!!! who would have thought! ...
Funny thing, when I was born in 1984, Adelaide had its coldest day for the year....today again my B'day we had what is surely the coldest say this year and for many a year infact. I recorded my lowest max ever of 9.7C not bad and for most of the day its been about 5 or 6 with a killer bitter wind blowing. Mt Lofty has been between 0-2 all dat max of 3.2 and for the past 2 hrs its been about 0. Mt crawford 0.1/0.1
atm snowing there for sure u would think.
Very thick As deck today combined with the cold night b4 and no sun getting thru and a wind blowing from an unheated land lead to this cold day. If the wind was southerly today we would have made 12-13 I reckon. Once this band goes thru id expect a steady rise in temps,prolly could be about 8-10 by dawn tomorrow. ...
TS cool"

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#719848 - 10/08/2003 07:03 PM Re: SA Low pressure/strong cold front 10th-14th
teckert
"hey all.
I ventured up into the hills at about 4pm. By about Lobethal I was getting sleet. Decided to head to Mt Lofty instead of Mt Crawford cos the big car rally was on at Crawford and the traffic was horrendous.
At Mt Lofty it was sleeting nicely - I was getting covered in ice soon after Phil had left. Then about 5 mins later we had a few flakes come through but nothing much more except for constant sleet. Left the summit as someone told me it was snowing at Crafers and Heathfield. Drove around a bit around Stirling, Crafers, etc. with a few flakes falling but it was now dark and I was starving so I went home.
ABC Radio reports snow in several hills locations, the Barossa ranges, and of course the earlier falls in the Mid North. Hopefully my cousins can get pics from the Terowie falls."

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Above: Bureau of Meteorology surface chart for 10am
eastern standard time 9th August 2003.



Above: Bureau of Meteorology surface chart for 4pm
eastern standard time 9th August 2003.



Above: Bureau of Meteorology surface chart for 10pm
eastern standard time 9th August 2003.



Above: Bureau of Meteorology surface chart for 4am
eastern standard time 10th August 2003.



Above: Bureau of Meteorology surface chart for 10am
eastern standard time 10th August 2003.



Above: Bureau of Meteorology surface chart for 4pm
eastern standard time 10th August 2003.



Above: Bureau of Meteorology surface chart for 10pm
eastern standard time 10th August 2003.

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