February 7, 2023

Australia: giant hailstones and sandstorms

giant hailstones australia

Rain was eagerly awaited in Australia, especially in New South Wales and Victoria. And it must be said that they were consistent and even stormy, giving rise to extreme phenomena.

Fires have burned more than 10 million hectares in New South Wales so far. The human toll has risen to 30 victims. So far, there are still 80 fires in New South Wales and Victoria.

Stormy rains began last week, with very heavy accumulations in some areas of New South Wales. These rains have been life-saving, as they have enabled some fires to be weakened and extinguished. New thunderstorms, and new rains, were expected between Sunday and Monday in the south-east of the island-continent.

Sandstorm and golf-ball sized hailstones

The thunderstorms were very violent between this Sunday and Monday in the southeast. The Australian capital, Canberra, received violent hailstorms on Monday morning. The hailstones, whose diameter is close to that of a golf ball, caused a lot of damage. The wind gusts were also particularly violent: up to 117 km/h recorded!

Other violent thunderstorms allowed the formation of a sandstorm in New South Wales, at Norramine this Sunday. This sandstorm, better known as haboob, is formed from thunderstorms that originate over vast expanses of sand such as the Australian desert.

These thunderstorms, like any storm, have caused powerful gusts of wind. When these gusts hit sandy soil, they lift a lot of particles that form walls of particles that can be tens or even hundreds of metres high.

More severe thunderstorms in the offing?

Thunderstorm warnings have ceased for New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. The rains will fade until Wednesday (local time) when they will resume mainly over the state of Victoria and the east of South Australia. These new rains will be generated by a new cold front driven by a low pressure system along the South Australian coast. This situation is likely to cause new thunderstorms from Wednesday to Thursday over these states with the possibility of extreme phenomena such as violent hail and haboob showers.

They will then move up towards New South Wales from Thursday to Friday. In terms of cumulative totals, it is unlikely that these thundery rains will be significant as they will only be intense locally. They will therefore only moderately help the fire brigade in their fire-fighting efforts.

Increased alerts for fires on Wednesday and Thursday

From Wednesday onwards, the winds caused by the cold front and the arrival of new thunderstorms are likely to fan the current fires while causing new fires to start due to lightning. In addition, temperatures will start to rise again from Wednesday and Thursday along the coast of New South Wales as far as Brisbane in south-east Queensland. Another factor to watch out for is the westerly wind, which will strengthen from Wednesday to Thursday in the south-east, linked to the low pressure system transiting to the south of the island-continent. All these elements could increase the risk of fires.

As a result, the warnings are going up a notch for Wednesday and Thursday. All areas of New South Wales are on alert except for the extreme northeast of the state for Wednesday. The areas most at risk are those in the west and southwest where a severe hazard alert is issued with a fire ban.

South Australia is also seeing some of its regions placed on high wind alert with the arrival of this new cold front on Wednesday.

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