Houseboat on the Hawkesbury River

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Monday, 15 Aug 2005

Sail your caravan through the Nullarbor winds

Sail your caravan through the Nullarbor winds
Sail your caravan through
the Nullarbor winds


Bashing into strong winds is no fun regardless of whether the RV involved is a caravan, campervan, motor home, 4WD or camper-trailer behind a family sedan.

Crossing the Nullarbor is one caravanning experience which can be a lot easier if a close watch is kept on wind and weather.

This is just what Gary Malpass does. He works at the Bureau of Meteorology at Eucla, about 1436km east of Perth, and has the best view in the area from the top of the Escarpment. Eucla is a popular overnight stopover about 11km from the WA/SA border on the Eyre Highway.

Gary’s station has been around since 1876 so there is lot of 'local' in the knowledge compiled there. Gary can be contacted on 08 9039 3444. Visitors are welcome.

When GoSeeAustralia asked Gary to help RV’s with some caravanning weather-casting he and the Bureau of Meteorology in Perth came through with Wind Frequency Analyses and Wind Roses based on data gathered from 1957 to 2005.

Eucla Met Station

In the analyses provided the seasons are – Autumn is March, April and May. Winter is June, July and August. Spring is September, October and November and Summer is December, January and February. From the Wind Roses, which give an easily digested impression of wind regimes, the months in order most likely to have winds kind to caravanning are May. Followed by June; and April.

The Wind Frequency Analysis indicates the percentage of all observations that fall within a specified range of wind speeds and directions. We totaled the percentage values for winds of 21km/h or more and found that August to March is the windiest period. The figures are based on '9am and 3pm' readings, but checking the Met. Bureau notes show that the '9am' readings are actually taken between 7.30am and 10am.

This leads to some useful 'local 9am' coastal winds knowledge. In May the north and northeast winds total a percentage value of 44. Add west and northwest and the value jumps to 70. Totaling the All Winds value produces a 33 for winds of 1 to 10 km/h. Now those seem good odds for caravans.

The '9am' north and northeast wind pattern dominates in April, May and June with some shifts to the west and northwest.

Cliff and sea colours dazzle on the Great Aust Bight

The '3pm' values show much more influence of winds from the ocean. In May the wind is east, southeast and south at a total value of 56 and the value of all winds 0 to 10 km/h is 39. Again this is good wind value for caravanning.

The strong afternoon sea breeze is a factor from the east, southeast and south in January, February, March and into April, although the possibility of winds of 21km/h or more drops to total values of April 34, May 24, June 28 and July 33.

Compare these with the equivalent values for August 37, September 42, October 48, November 53, December 54, January 43, February 49 and March 45 and be prepared for some heavy going.

In the summer, if you must go, plan to travel to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

Generally mornings look better in the Eucla Wind Frequency Analysis, but never forget the dent active wildlife can make in holiday plans.

And for those who have not had the unhappy experience of cooking a perfectly good motor it is worth noting that long spells with the prevailing wind behind a RV, pulling heavy, can fry the works.

Nullarbor Bearded Dragon

Be sure your cooling systems are 150 per cent. If your fans can’t suck enough air through the radiator because you are running too long and too hot downwind in what amounts to a vacuum, the motor will suffer.

Please stop and take some time out at regular intervals. After all this is a holiday we are discussing.

The maximum wind gusts recorded at Eucla in km/h since 1995 are: Aug. 84, Sept 80, Oct 85, Nov 80, Dec 91, Jan 80, and Feb 108. Yes it can blow, but you might sail through in a flat calm. Watch the weather and use Pay attention to coastal and land wind warnings. If you hit a big gale, patience works. If you can, sit it out. If you must drive take it easy. Even the strongest winds often drop in the evening and into early morning. But kangaroos, camels and wombats are 'night owls' so weigh up the risks. Take your time and you will be fine.

Sand drifts cover Eucla Telegraph Station

GoSeeAustralia acknowledges with thanks the material supplied by John Cramb and Gary Malpass and the Western Australian Regional Office of the Bureau of Meteorology, Perth.

John Cramb says – 'There is a possible issue in that the location and methodology of the wind measurements changed during the total period, with the result that the statistics for the period 1995-2005 show significantly stronger winds than those for the earlier period. For a general overall comparison of the different months and different times of the day I'd imagine that would be a less important issue than in some other contexts. Wind statistics generally tend to be very sensitive to the method of measurement and the precise location of the observing site, so this is a fairly common problem in many places'.

Thanks to Tourism Western Australia for their assistance with pictures.

For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia Directory
Phone:  02 6294 1941
Fax:     02 6284 9275

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