Australians to brace through more frigid temperatures as another polar airmass smashes east coast

The early winter cold air has pushed as far north as Alice Springs, where the midday temperature on Wednesday was hovering at just 10C. So why is it so cold so early in the season?

The nation is collectively shivering on the first day of winter as a cold snap reaches its third day, but an even longer cold spell is ahead next week.

Temperatures this week dropped as much as 10C below average, low enough to break a handful of autumn records in Victoria on Tuesday – including Avalon where the maximum only reached 9.2C.

Towns along the ranges woke to a white start to winter on Wednesday following overnight snowfalls in Trentham and Macedon in Victoria, and Jindabyne, Orange and Oberon in NSW.

The hills around Canberra even received a dusting while the alpine resorts welcomed as much as 50cm during the past 48 hours.

The cold air has pushed as far north as Alice Springs where the midday temperature on Wednesday was hovering at just 10C.

So why is it so cold so early in winter?

The air currently moving over southeast Australia originated near the Antarctic coastline last weekend, so is naturally pretty cold.

This polar airmass will move off the NSW coast overnight, allowing temperatures to warm by an ice cube or two for Thursday and Friday, but the Antarctic air is already packing its bag for another trip north during Friday and Saturday.

This next frigid airmass will reach Australian shores from Sunday, and will stay until at least Thursday next week.

That’s five days of cold, windy, showery weather for southeast states with the usual wintry mix of small hail and thunder.

During this period temperatures will drop as much as 5C below average, a significant amount for winter when temperatures are normally fairly stable, unlike summer which can bring 20C swings in 24 hours.

Snow is again likely along the ranges and by midweek could reach as far north as the Northern Tablelands of NSW.

For the Alps the next round of snow will start as early as Friday before building during the weekend into a full-blown blizzard.

Sunday is likely to bring the heaviest snow when close to half a meter could fall in just 24 hours.

Moderate snow should continue Monday to Wednesday, taking the storm total to near one meter.

Meteorologists and snow enthusiasts rely on data from Snowy Hydro to gauge snow conditions and make historical comparisons because the Bureau of Meteorology do not keep records of snowfall.

Since the 1950s Snowy Hydro has taken weekly readings of snow depth to calculate the spring melt for power generation.

The data shows a natural snow depth of more than 84cm on opening weekend would make 2022 the best start to a season since 1968 when 146cm had already accumulated.

For those closer to sea level the system will bring more rain, heaviest in regions exposed to westerly winds.

The map above shows a 7 day rain forecast and 100mm possibly falling on the west coasts of Victoria and Tasmania by Thursday next week.


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