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Sail your caravan through the Nullarbor winds

October 13, 2016
Sail your caravan through the Nullarbor winds

Bashing into strong winds is no fun regardless of whether the RV involved is a caravan, campervan, motorhome or camper trailer behind a 4WD or the 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 a 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'ers 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.

In the analyses provided the seasons are:

  • Autumn: March, April and May

  • Winter: June, July and August

  • Spring: September, October and November

  • Summer: 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 totalled 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 north-west and the value jumps to 70. Totalling 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 north-east wind pattern dominates in April, May and June with some shifts to the west and north-west.

The '3pm' values show much more influence of winds from the ocean. In May the wind is east, south-east 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, south-east 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 an RV, pulling heavy, can fry the works.

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 the Bureau of Meterology. 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.

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.

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