Each year since 1985, the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia runs a photographic competition and the winning pictures go into a calendar. The 2012 calendar, available to buy here, showcases the diversity of Australia’s highly variable weather and climate. More info here, you can contact the photographers here.
January. Matt Smith, a warehouse supervisor of Wollongong, NSW, risked his $15,000 medium-format camera to capture this double rainbow at Wombarra beach in January 2011. It survived the rain.
February. Suzanne Pollard, who calls herself ‘a gypsy, a bush girl, a weather freak’, was caretaking at an Aboriginal community at Warralong, 110 km southeast of Port Hedland, when she photographed this dust storm in January 2010. The strong and gusty winds associated with a thunderstorm picked up the loose red dust characteristic of the region.
March. Photographing from a mustering helicopter with doors removed, Helen Commens of Ourdel Station, near Windorah, Queensland, took this shot in December of the 2010-11 floods in the channel country. Frequent heavy rain in late 2010 – associated with a strong La Niña in the Pacific Ocean – led to widespread flooding across much of eastern Australia. La Niña, when sea-surface temperatures in the central/eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean are cooler than normal, usually results in increased rainfall across eastern Australia. In the week preceding the photograph, a low pressure trough over eastern Australia had directed a humid northerly airstream over central Queensland, leading to widespread rainfall.
April. A call from a friend alerted storm chaser Steph Hall to this storm front at Undertow Bay near her home at Inverloch in southeast Victoria. The thunderstorm was generated as a low pressure trough crossed Victoria.
May. When Mark Percival lived at Palmerston in the Northern Territory, inland of Darwin, he enjoyed photographing tropical thunderstorms from his second-floor balcony.
June. Keen photographer and bushwalker John Martyn followed a Bureau of Meteorology forecast and drove for two hours from his home at Turramurra in northern Sydney to photograph ‘a full-on snow storm, with winds around 50 km/hr’ at Hargraves Lookout in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
July. Melbourne IT consultant Paul Burgess snapped this frost-encased willow tree near Happy Valley Creek while visiting his parents’ property at Rosewhite, near Myrtleford in northeast Victoria.
August. Persistence paid off for enthusiastic photographer Susan Mace, who captured this image of unusual roll-cloud formations off Cape Tourville, near Coles Bay, Tasmania, after colleagues on a photographic workshop had proceeded to breakfast after a dawn expedition. The roll clouds were generated by a land breeze trapped under a low-level inversion (a warmer layer above colder air). A land breeze may blow from the land to open water when sea temperatures are higher than the land surface temperature.
September. Gina Harrington’s children called her out from the Brinard Station homestead in Queensland’s Gulf Country at sunset on 2 February 2011 to photograph ‘a weird, big rolling cloud’. It proved to be their first sign of severe tropical cyclone Yasi. Yasi crossed the coast as a marginal category 5 cyclone near Mission Beach on 3 February 2011, between midnight and 1 am. Yasi was one of the most powerful cyclones to have affected Queensland in recorded history.
October. Meteorologist Barend Becker was on duty on the Bureau of Meteorology’s stand at Agfest at Carrick, near Launceston, in northern Tasmania, when a farmer interrupted his discussions to ask him to identify some distinctive clouds. They were lenticular clouds, near stationary lens-shaped clouds that usually form downwind of a mountain range or elevated area. As wind passes over a mountain range it becomes turbulent due to the disruption to the flow. This sometimes produces a wave pattern in the flow beyond the mountains and, under certain conditions, moisture in the air will condense as it moves up towards the crest of the wave, forming cloud. As the moist air descends towards the trough of the wave, the cloud particles may evaporate again.
November. Prompted by a forecast for fog, Sydneysider Kathryn Lynch got up to greet the dawn in the pristine bushland of McKay Reserve at Palm Beach on Sydney’s North Shore in April 2010.
December. When South Australia’s Lake Eyre started filling in July 2010, photographers from around the world came to Australia’s largest salt lake to capture the infrequent phenomenon. Wollongong photographer Matt Smith was among them and captured altocumulus cloud reflected in the waters of the lake. The volume of water in Lake Eyre varies substantially each year – large portions are often dry – and is linked to the cycle of El Niño and La Niña, a major driver of rainfall in the lake’s catchment areas.
Cover photo. Chris Wilson, deputy station leader at Australia’s Mawson Base in Antarctica, photographed this aurora at 11.06 pm on 24 April 2011. The broad swathe of green light is a space-weather phenomenon known as aurora australis, or the southern lights. The name comes from the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora. Auroras are a complex interaction of the earth’s magnetic field with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles from the sun. Although auroras are most commonly seen from the polar regions, under the right conditions they can be visible from as far north as the Australian mainland.