ACT News

Canberra's coldest stretch in 43 years with fourth consecutive morning below -6 degrees

A perfect storm of clear skies and lights winds has seen the national capital blanketed in heavy white frost for the fourth consecutive morning as records for subzero temperatures continue to fall. 

The Bureau of Meteorology’s chief weatherman Sean Carson said temperatures fell to as low as -6.8 degrees around 4.30am on Wednesday, which was slightly warmer than the -7.6 degree low recorded around 7am on Tuesday morning.

Wednesday’s subzero start, which brought frost to all parts of the ACT, meant the capital experienced four consecutive August nights with temperatures below -6 degrees for the first time.  

"We have never before recorded four consecutive nights below -6C in August, [the] previous record was 3 back in 1994," said Mr Carson.

Mr Carson said the last time Canberra saw four nights below -6 degrees was back in 1971 from July 10 to 14.

“These were -7.5 degrees, -10 degrees (which is the coldest night on record), -8.4 degrees, and -6.8 degrees,” he said.

Mr Carson said this week’s cold front has brought overnight lows of -6C, -6.1C, -7.6C and -6.8C.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast an overnight low of -3 for Thursday and -1 from Friday until Sunday when showers are expected to fall in the ACT.

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said this week’s cold snap will be the coldest we’re likely to experience this year with no sign of -6 degree temperatures in the next two weeks.

“The cold front that moved through late last week brought the coldest air mass that any front has brought so far this season and extremely dry air with it,” he said.

“Once the winds dropped off and the skies became clearer, these conditions combined to bring extremely cold mornings to Canberra.”

Mr Dutschke said there was likely to be only a few spots of rain on Sunday and Monday with a better chance of rainfall later next week once southerly winds shift to easterly winds.

“Thursday will probably be the warmest morning of the week with -3 degree conditions looking about right as the official forecast suggest,” he said.

“It won’t be quite as cold on Friday but I think Saturday will be similarly cold so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bureau dropped the forecast closer to -3 degrees.”

Back on July 12 1971, the Canberra Times reported hundreds of water pipes had burst as a result of the freezing temperatures while police were “believed to have booked a large number of motorists for driving with restricted vision after the car windscreens misted”.

Officer-in-Charge of Traffic Operations Station Sergeant Rod Anderson said police can still book people for driving with icy windscreens some 43 years later.

“It’s actually an offence to drive a vehicle if your vision, to the front or rear is obstructed,” he said.

“If police pull you over with ice, or any other object obstructing your vision, you can be fined $135.”

And just like in 1972, when Keith Connor and David Harris sailed on Lake Burley Griffin with the Canberra Yacht Club, a number of Canberrans have braved icy conditions on the lake.

Canberra Rowing Club secretary John Southwell said more than 30 people from the club collectively braved the -6 degree conditions on Wednesday morning.

"Sure, it takes an element of madness but it’s also really great fun," he said.

"When you get in the sunlight its beautiful and obviously you rug up for it. We went out there on Monday and had to pause to put special gloves over the boat’s oars."

Mr Southwell said a couple of times this week crews have come back to the pontoon to find it covered with ice; an occurrence he described as "disconcerting".