What is a cold front?
A cold front is exactly what it sounds like: it’s the advancing edge (the ‘front’) of a cold air mass as it moves into a particular region. They’re a common weather feature in southern parts of Australia, Victoria in particular.
Joanna Hewes, Duty Forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), says that while cold fronts are “fairly typical” for late autumn and early winter, the run of cold weather has gone on for longer than usual.
“Melbourne is forecast for temperatures below 14 degrees Celsius for 10 days in a row, which hasn’t happened since 1998,” she says. In addition, snow was found in areas other than the mountain regions, including Trentham, Daylesford, and The Grampians.
When a cold front moves through, it often brings with it rain, strong winds, and cloud. This is because as the cold air moves into an area, it displaces the area’s existing warmer air, pushing it up into the atmosphere where it can condense into clouds and rain. Cold fronts also bring a sudden and marked drop in temperature. This sudden drop is what is often described as a ‘cold snap’.
Cold fronts aren’t just a winter phenomenon either. They occur all year round, but their effects vary depending on the season. In winter they can bring heavy rain, damaging winds, and even snow, while in summer, they can increase bushfire danger due to the strong wind gusts and chances of lightning.
In Victoria, Hewes attributes this cold front to a mass of cold hair from the Southern Ocean that has pushed up over the state, with low clouds and features in the atmosphere that are “hanging around” and “keeping temperatures low.”
Over winter, the BoM has predicted above-average rainfall, which may be linked to La Niña and the Indian Ocean Dipole (Indian Niño). That said, Hewes says we can expect temperatures in Victoria, particularly around coastal regions, to have “an 80 per cent chance of exceeding median maximum temperatures.” We just have to get through the cold snap first!
What are the winter health risks?
No matter whether you are a fit and healthy young person, or have a myriad of health concerns, cold winters pose significant health risks to all Victorians. As the mercury drops lower, the dangers of health risks rise.
Research has found that every year in Australia, more deaths are associated with moderate cold than heat or extreme cold.
If your body temperature drops, this can lead to physical illness which can include coughs, hypothermia, headaches, and poor blood circulation. But the winter months can also impact mental health with reduced sunlight and tendencies to stay indoors.
It is advised for all Victorians during the winter months to take extra precautions to look after their physical and mental health, including:
- Follow severe weather warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology
- Make sure your flu and COVID-19 vaccines are up to date
- Cover your extremities with layered clothing, and cover your feet and hands with gloves and warm socks
- Eat well, keep moving, and exercise - even if it’s just around the house
- Keep in contact with friends and family to stay sociable
- Seek medical advice from an expert if you feel ill