Climatic Change

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 369-388

First online:

Severe thunderstorms in New South Wales: Climatology and means of assessing the impact of climate change

  • D. J. GriffithsAffiliated withNew South Wales Regional Office, Bureau of Meteorology
  • , J. R. ColquhounAffiliated withNew South Wales Regional Office, Bureau of Meteorology
  • , K. L. BattAffiliated withNew South Wales Regional Office, Bureau of Meteorology
  • , T. R. CasinaderAffiliated withNew South Wales Regional Office, Bureau of Meteorology

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


A climatology of severe thunderstorms in the Australian State of New South Wales is described, using the data base of more than 1000 severe thunderstorm events held in the New South Wales Regional Office of the Bureau of Meteorology. Previously only a tornado climatology was described. Severe thunderstorms are the second most costly weather phenomenon in Australia (after tropical cyclones), on the basis of insurance payouts for major events since June 1967. Two thirds of this cost occurs in New South Wales.

Severe thunderstorms show marked diurnal and seasonal distributions with maxima in the warmer months and during the late evening. Distributions are similar to those in the United States. The peak months for large and giant hail, tornadoes, strong winds and flash floods differ, being respectively November, December, January and February. While these temporal distributions are reasonably well defined, knowledge of the historical and spatial distributions is limited. A means of deriving a spatial distribution is given, which is based on the frequency near Sydney and the relative frequency at a time when there was a more uniform population distribution over the State.

The climatology of severe thunderstorms is not an adequate basis for assessing the impacts of a future climate change. However, there are possible means of doing this utilising numerical climate models, and these are suggested.