1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2002   
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Contents >> Geography and Climate >> Climate of Australia

The island continent of Australia features a wide range of climatic zones, from the tropical regions of the north, through the arid expanses of the interior, to the temperate regions of the south.

Widely known as 'The Dry Continent', the land mass is relatively arid, with 80% having a median rainfall less than 600 mm per year and 50% less than 300 mm (the average is 450 mm). Seasonal fluctuations can be large, with temperatures ranging from above 50 degrees C to well below zero. However, extreme minimum temperatures are not as low as those recorded in other continents, due to Australia's relatively low latitude, the lack of high mountains to induce orographic cooling (which is in the order of -0.6 degrees C/100 m increase in elevation) and because of the large expanse of relatively warm surrounding oceans.

Although the climate can be described as predominantly continental, the insular nature of the land mass produces modifications to the general continental pattern.

Australia experiences many of nature's more extreme phenomena, particularly droughts, floods, tropical cyclones, severe storms and bushfires.

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