Coldest May in 50 years for Canberra Australia

Snow season starts early at Perisher. Photo: SUPPLIED ZZZ

Snow season starts early at Perisher.

SMH | May 29, 2012

The coldest May in more than 50 years has left Canberra’s gardeners with frostbitten plants and dying blooms.

Incoming president of the Canberra Garden Club, Allan Moss, said plants experiencing new growth in autumn were vulnerable to damage from the cold.

”The biggest issue is that before May, we had a pretty warm autumn,” he said. ”This means the soft growth from the warm autumn is burnt off by the cold.”

Conifers are the only plants that will not see damage from the cold, according to Mr Moss.

”Many natives, bottlebrushes and banksias in particular, put on a flush of soft growth in the autumn, so they’ll see that burning,” he said. ”But you don’t see it on conifers, because they put on their growth in the spring.”

Meterologists at Weatherzone, which is owned by Fairfax, say it’s the second-coldest May on record, with overnight temperatures falling below zero, three degrees below the average overnight temperature.

Canberra hasn’t suffered through a cold spell like this since 1961.

Average temperatures fell to minus 0.2 degrees compared to the historical average of 3.1 degrees.

The only colder May on record was in 1957, when the average low was minus 2.6 degrees.

Record cold hits WA Kimberley

”This freezing weather is more typical of July, when the average minimum is minus 0.1 of a degree,” Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.

The effects the cold snap is having on plants is normal, but it has arrived earlier than usual.

Mr Moss said plants generally begin to see signs of frost burn around June and July. He added amateur gardeners shouldn’t worry.

”People shouldn’t trim their plants yet,” Mr Moss said. ”They should just leave it until the spring.”

Mr Dutschke attributed the cold weather to high pressure systems across the month.

”Skies have been clearer than normal and the air drier than normal, which have combined to make most nights dip below freezing.”

The conditions have made for a drier-than-average month, with only 21mm of rain falling, less than half the long-term average of 44mm.

And Mr Moss said the lack of rain would actually be a blessing in disguise for gardeners.

”By having less rain, you have less soft growth,” he said. ”That means there will be less potential for plants to be damaged by frost.”

Meteorologists are predicting more freezing nights in winter, but they will not be much colder than Canberra has already experienced.

”More freezing nights are likely, but overall, nights should turn out to be near average,” Mr Dutschke said.

”Daytime temperatures and rainfall should also return to normal.”


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