Snow in Western Australia

Notes on Historical Data

The page after this contains a complete list of all known snowfalls in Western Australia. While it's the most comprehensive record I'm aware of, there are limits to its completeness and accuracy which should be taken into account.

The information I received from the Bureau of Meteorology included the following text:

Note: It is difficult to confirm the historical reports of snow. The list of accounts of snow have primarily been extracted from newspaper accounts. Most people are unfamiliar with snow due to the infrequency of snow events in the state. It is possible that some of the reported sightings of snow may actually be reports of sleet or soft hail. Many of the reports of snow that don't coincide with snow falling in the Stirling and Porongorup district should be treated with a degree of caution. Also, there may be many more incidences of snow that are not listed below.

Snow has almost certainly fallen on many other occasions and in other places that are not recorded here. Reasons for this may include the following:

Snowfalls not witnessed by anyone

This is plausible even today in a lightly populated state where snowfalls are typically limited in area and short in duration. It would have been an even bigger factor in the past when the state was even more sparsely settled, and people not as mobile. Reports of snow become less frequent the further back in time you look - this is more likely due to lack of witnesses or lost records rather than lack of snow. The state's first settlement occurred in 1826, but towns that have experienced snow were only established gradually over the following century (eg Manjimup 1856, Katanning 1889, Gnowangerup 1905, Borden 1915).

Low-level snowfalls occur most often early in the day when temperatures are lower. It is conceivable that a light dusting of snow (which typically lasts less than than half an hour) could go unnoticed if it occurred in a rural area during darkness and had melted before first light.

Light snow on the Stirling Range peaks could also escape notice as vegetation and cloud make insignificant falls difficult to spot from a distance. Even when the cloud clears, a light dusting can melt quickly. Some light snowfalls might only be witnessed if somebody is on top of Bluff Knoll or one of the other peaks at the time it falls. Even today it is likely that some snow goes unnoticed because nobody is there to see it. In the days before tracks were constructed, climbing the peaks would have been a major undertaking, leaving many more snowfalls unwitnessed.

Snowfalls witnessed but not reported

This applies particularly to snowfalls in isolated areas or with few witnesses. Snowfalls which are not reported to a newspaper, or otherwise made public, may be lost to history. Even with today's efficient communications an event might not be reported to a newspaper, the Bureau of Meteorology or a weather enthusiasts website, in which case the general public may never know of it. Someone may experience a snow shower on Bluff Knoll, but if nobody else is there and only his friends are told of it, it doesn't become public knowledge.

Here are some recent instances where snow could possibly have fallen, as the weather conditions (actual, not just forecasted) could have supported snow on the Stirling Range summits. No reports have been located, so its occurrence remains unknown - if snow did occur it was either unwitnessed or not reported.

2006, July 10-11 Snow possible later in day on the 10th but probably not settling. Snowfall very likely on the morning of the 11th, probably settling (but if so, not much).
2007, August 30 Snow likely later in day but probably not settling on the ground. Albany sounding at 11pm showed temp of 0 at 3500 feet (approx height of Bluff Knoll), but front moved through quickly and most moisture had passed by the time the temperature fell this much.
 

Information lost over time

One example of this is snow in the town of Kalgoorlie. I've heard of people having memories of it twice snowing in Kalgoorlie, and a newspaper report mentions one such event: "It is believed that snow fell in Kalgoorlie - a photograph of the phenomena was taken in Hannan street about 50 years ago, but details cannot be traced in the records" (Kalgoorlie Miner, June 27 1956). Rare snow in Kalgoorlie is plausible, and appears to have occurred, but details have been lost.

Reports Needing Clarification

There may also be questions concerning some of the snow reports that have been recorded. For example, snow is reported to have fallen in the town of Dumbleyung on November 18th, 1923. I've checked the relevant newspapers for all four occasions when snow was reported in 1923, and found details of the other snowfalls, but no mention whatsoever of snow in Dumbleyung on November 18th. This seems odd considering how newsworthy a low-level snowfall would have been just two weeks before the start of summer. Also the weather around that date did not appear conducive to such a freaky event.

Another report I'd like to clarify is that of July 26th 1864. For this day an extract from C. Hunt's expedition diary reportedly states "The whole country was white with snow", in reference to an area north of present-day Merredin. I've read the expedition diary of C Hunt's 1864 expedition but it didn't extend as far as July and I could find no reference to snow.

I'm not suggesting that the snow in these two examples did not occur; the records must have originated from somewhere. It appears though that some details may need clarification, and this is what I hope to do.

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