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2016 July 4th: a fall of snow reported from Mt Lofty, unexpected and witnessed by few people.
(First of two July snow events).

Summary

On the evening of 4th July 2016 in the hours of darkness before midnight, sleet and snow were seen falling on and near the summit of Mt Lofty. Very few people witnessed the snow falling. I've only been able to find one personal account, one excellent video, one minimalist video, and no photos.

Primary causes: Unusual causes for South Australian snow: a combination of an upper trough crossing southern South Australia with an upper low developing in the vicinity of the southern Mt Lofty Ranges, and a weak surface low developing in approximately the same location and bringing a southerly airstream over the range.

Event rating on SA-wide snow distribution and amount min 1 to max 10 scale: 1

Comment: This was a very unusual snow event for South Australia and judging by Glen Pearce's video linked to below, it produced flakes that were of an unusually large size for Mt Lofty.

End of summary

On July 4th 2016 snow and sleet fell at times on the Mt Lofty summit during the evening darkness. This was an unheralded snowfall and one apparently witnessed by very few people and recorded on camera by even less. I've found only two videos and no photos of the falling snow and sleet. Fortunately one of the videos provides us with an excellent record of what may have been the snowfall at its best.

As this snowfall was not forecast there was no prior publicity about a possibility of snow falling in the hills. I don't think there was a reference to the chance of snow in any Bureau of Meteorology forecast on the day, at least not before snow commenced falling. And the snow fell during darkness and when the Greater Adelaide Area was experiencing widespread substantial rainfall.

A key to the lack of prior expectation among the media and the forecasters seems to be that meteorological conditions favorable for snow reaching the ground only developed during the late afternoon and early evening of the day. This can happen and on another scale entirely it reminds me of the way Cyclone Tracy caught most residents of Darwin and vicinity by surprise.

I was either preparing to leave or already on my way to a wild and woolly and rather exhilarating night-time snow-chase in the rain and winds to the Mid-North at the time the first snow was reported from Mt Lofty, so I don't have any personal record or footage of the Lofty snow. Nor did I see any snow falling in the Mid-North so I don't have any personal records of snow there either!

Now to one of the only two videos I've found of the snowfall on Mount Lofty. This video was posted onto YouTube by Glen Pearce. It's taken in the car park on the summit. He and his two companions seem to have that part of the car park all to themselves, in contrast to the afternoon of the 12th July 2016 when the summit car park was overflowing with cars.

Some details:
Video by Glen Pearce, posted onto YouTube.
Title: "Snow at Mt Lofty"
Camera time for the video is: 1007pm 4th July.
Link to video on YouYube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgboBYOddCM

The light source for this video is either attached to or held against the camera and is quite bright enough to get a good video record of falling snow at night. It's the first night-time video of South Australian snow falling using a video light I recall seeing. The ones I've seen and the ones I've taken have all relied on street lights, car lights, or car park lights, and while they're a lot better than no light they have their limitations.

I also note that the cameraman has calmly panned around and in doing so showed the snow falling from various angles to the camera. Somehow no snowflake seems to have landed on the lens even when the camera was aiming directly into the oncoming snow.

Thank heavens these three were there to film the fall and also that Glen had the experience and equipment to make such a beautiful video!

I've embedded the video below and I do recommend watching it on YouTube in fullscreen. If the video disappears from YouTube or the embed won't work on your player, try this link.

 

I don't have enough experience with snow to say whether this looks like pure snowflakes falling or whether the snow crystals may have been modified by some degree of melting and then refreezing. I don't hear any pings on the video sound track that would suggest any solid ice particles among the falling flakes.

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On July 4th 2016 Ben Gordon posted onto the Higgins Storm Chasing Facebook page a five second video, taken on his mobile phone by the looks, showing small flakes or similar objects falling, with the text "Snowing on mt lofty". I can't find a time of filming or posting, however in subsequent posts there are times:
Higgins Storm Chasing "Woohoo that's crazy ! Shoot us some more video if u can Ben and we will share it! - Jeff" ... July 4, 2016 at 8:38pm
Ben Gordon "Sorry that's all we got, had to leave. When we came back it wasn't as heavy" ... July 4, 2016 at 9:42pm
Mel Gogler "Is it still going?" ... July 4, 2016 at 9:39pm
Ben Gordon "It is still snowing but not as much" ... July 4, 2016 at 9:43pm

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Here is an eyewitness account posted onto the Weatherzone forums by "SnowHalos".

SnowHalos
Loc: Adelaide, South Australia
"Hi Folks:
I dont post often but I thought I better tonight for the snow lovers. wink I headed up to Mt Lofty when I saw the temperature starting to edge towards 1.5c. Snow started to appear in the air at about 700 m, and when I got to the car park it was dumping quite nicely. Time was about 8:10 pm. Temp was about 1c. The snow had settled a bit on the road and ground, slushy...but there no less. After a five minutes it started to look more sleety, spent the next 20 minutes like this, and by about 8:40 pm it was only raining again, with the temp back up to about 1.7c. As the coldest air came through before 8 with 0.6c, I obviously caught the tail end of the "snow" window. Not much, but something at least...and surprising given it wasnt even forecast. smile "

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Below is the 256 km Buckland Park radar loop for the period 940am 4th July to 930am 5th July 2016. Source: The Weather Chaser

See : 256km Radar Loop for Adelaide (Buckland Park), 00:00 04/07/2016 to 00:00 05/07/2016 UTC



Below is the 512 km Buckland Park radar loop for the same period 940am 4th July to 930am 5th July 2016.See : 512km Radar Loop for Adelaide (Buckland Park), 00:00 04/07/2016 to 00:00 05/07/2016 UTC



I don't have the detailed temperature records from the Mount Lofty automatic weather station from that night. But looking at the kind of echoes on the radar loops suggests to me that showers of snow and-or sleet could have fallen until as late as around 1140pm and possibly later if the temperature was sufficiently cold.

The radar suggests snowflakes may have fallen in some other high localities in the southern Lofties if the temperature was low enough, but the only record I have for anywhere in South Australia is from Mt Lofty. The radar also tells a story about why I didn't see any snow falling in the vicinity of the Mt Bryan Range in the Mid-North (near Hallett). Most of the heavier precipitation simply didn't reach that district.

Now for a gif file of infrared satellite images from the Oscilmet website http://www.oscilmet.com.au . The satellite images are labelled Bureau of Meteorology 3 Jul 16 1830UTC to 4 Jul 16 1730 UTC. Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) is 9:30 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time UTC in July. So the dates and times for the satellite images are 4 Jul 16 400am to 5 Jul 300am Central Standard Time. The pause time for the gif file is 2 seconds. Open this gif file to see it .

For a fast and wild view open this gif file.

A feature of the surface charts and the evolution of the surface features is that this snowfall does not appear to be a consequence of a very cold air mass coming from the deep south extending down to the surface. If this is correct then it makes this snowfall a very unusual one for South Australia. The surface charts for most South Australian snow events I've examined show an unusually long southerly fetch of the near-surface air mass the snow must fall through to reach the surface.

However if we look at the 500 hPa charts we see that at 1030pm July 3rd an upper level trough is approaching South Australia and during the 4th the trough is approaching the central districts and by the evening of 4th it has developed an upper low more or less over the southern Mount Lofty Ranges.

I don't profess to understand how this upper trough and upper low contributed to snow reaching the ground but my guess is it played a central role.

To see the Bureau of Meteorology mean sea level 6 hourly charts from 10am eastern standard time 3rd July to 4am 6th July displayed at two second intervals, open this gif file. Below are the individual charts.

























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500 hPa Analysis, Australian Region.

Source: Burea of Meteorology website:
Bureau Home > Australia > Weather Maps > Analysis Chart Archive
BoM Analysis Chart Archive.

Below: 1030am CST (central standard time) 3rd July.



Below: 1030pm CST 3rd July.



Below: 1030am CST 4th July.



Below: 1030pm CST 4th July.



Below: 1030am CST 5th July.



Below: 1030pm CST 5th July.




End of report.

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