Australia’s eastern seaboard has shivered through an early taste of winter, with many places experiencing the coldest start to the day this year.
Temperatures in the single digits were recorded at various locations from southern Queensland through to Victoria, with inland areas dropping below zero.
In Canberra, winter arrived two weeks earlier than usual with temperatures plunging below zero to a frosty -2.3C on Tuesday – only slightly milder than the low of -2.6C recorded on Monday.
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Sydneysiders woke up to another chilly morning on Tuesday with a low of 8.2C recorded at Canterbury Park Racecourse.
But it was slightly warmer than Monday – the coldest start to the day so far this year – when maximum temperatures were about 5C below the April average.
In inland New South Wales, temperatures plunged to -1.7C in Lithgow overnight.
Brisbane’s temperature also fell to 14.7C overnight, with temperatures of 6.1C recorded at Dalby airport and 1C at Roma airport but did not stay chilly for long, with temperatures climbing back into the mid-20s on Tuesday.
The cold snap was caused by a “polar blast” moving north from the Antarctic that began to merge with a second cold front on Friday.
Melbourne experienced its lowest temperature since October last year on Sunday when the temperatures dropped to 8.3C.
The cold snap delivered the first healthy dusting of snow for the season across resort regions in Victoria and Tasmania on the weekend.
Temperatures hit -5.2C in Thredbo and -4.7C in Mount Hotham, while Mount Wellington in Tasmania fell to -2.4C.
Snow fell to 800 metres, with graupel – fast-melting snow – in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, around the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges at Ferny Creek.
Wild seas followed the cold front, with wave heights reaching eight to 10 metres in South Australia and eight to 11 metres across western Tasmania over the weekend.
In Port Fairy in south-western Victoria – an area where climate change is increasing the intensity of swells and causing coastal erosion – the surf was strong enough to lift large boulders on to local roads.
Meanwhile, in Port Phillip Bay, rough seas overcame young fairy penguins who were just leaving the nest.
While some penguins have been found dead and washed up across the Victorian south coast, Animalia Wildlife Shelter and Rescue director Michelle Thomas said this was “a normal process at an extraordinary time” as the storms have arrived two weeks earlier than usual.
“This is a normal process of natural attrition,” Thomas said. “These are chicks that have just left the nest, they do not know how to fish, they have to figure that out for themselves. Because we’ve had some horrible weather, these guys have gone three or four days without fishing. So they’re worn out and exhausted.
“There has been a high number of them turn up dead on beaches and quite a few coming into care.
“We’re asking for people to walk the beaches, look for them and call in. Then we give instructions. We don’t want them sitting on beaches starving to death, waiting to be attacked by dogs.”
The Bureau of Meteorology said the weather would lift over the next couple of weeks, but a cold front developing in Western Australia would sweep east, sending temperatures plunging back down next weekend.
The cold front is expected to bring with it fire warnings in South Australia, frost across inland areas and snow down to 500 metres in Tasmania, and elevated parts of Victoria and New South Wales.
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