Tenterfield in northern NSW, for instance, has collected only 184 millimetres of rain so far this year, or 41 per cent below the previous record for the period.
“Even if they received as much rain in December alone, Tenterfield would still have their driest calendar year on record,” Dr Trewin said.
The dry conditions, which have resulted in frequent dust storms over inland parts of eastern Australia and contributed to one of the worst fire seasons on record, were accompanied by unusually warm conditions.
By maximum temperatures, Australia had its second-warmest spring. Daytime temperature came in at 2.41 degrees above the 1961-90 average, just 0.04 degrees shy of the record hot spring in 2014.
“Extremely dry conditions and very much above average temperatures led to increased fire risk across New South Wales and Queensland during spring,” the bureau said.
By mean temperatures – averaging daily maximums and minimums – the spring was Australia’s fifth warmest.
Among the states, WA had its hottest spring for both mean and maximum temperatures.
All other states and the Northern Territory had their top 10 warmest springs, with the exception of Tasmania and Victoria. Strong westerlies have kept the mercury closer to average levels.
For the first 11 months of the year, Australia’s daytime temperatures have been tracking as the warmest for any year, while mean temperatures are running second warmest, the bureau said.
Last week, the bureau predicted the relatively hot conditions of spring would extend through summer for almost all of the country, while eastern Australia has strong odds for a drier than usual December-February.
The near-term outlook suggests the first half of December will be relatively dry and warm for almost the whole country. The prevailing pattern of westerly winds could also exacerbate the many fires burning in NSW and Queensland.
Sydney sweats, Melbourne chills
Among the regions, Sydney had its second warmest spring on record with average day-time temperatures of 24.3 degrees at Observatory Hill on the edge of the CBD.
For last month alone, Sydney had its hottest November on record. The average maximum was 26.6 degrees or just shy of being 3 degrees warmer than average.
Another record to fall was evaporation rates. Sydney Airport recorded evaporation of 268.4 millimetres, beating the previous record of 247.8 millimetres set in November 2016, according to data going back to 1974.
Sydney’s seven days of at least 30 degrees last month were also the second most for any November. The year-to-date maximums are also running at a record high for any year, at about 2.4 degrees above the long-run norm.
Victoria, meanwhile, had a wider range of conditions than NSW. Its spring was the coolest since 2003 for minimum temperatures, while daytime readings were generally warmer than average.
Rainfall came in at 39 per cent below a typical Victorian spring.
Melbourne was generally drier and warmer than average. The city’s 40.9-degree reading on November 21 equalled Melbourne’s highest November temperature, matching the temperature set on 27 November 1894 at the old Observatory site, the bureau said.
Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.