Icicles in the outback, how a central Australian school became a winter wonderland

Posted June 25, 2019 17:59:28

An outback school became an early morning winter wonderland this week, as Alice Springs shivered through freezing overnight temperatures.

Key points:

  • There were icy scenes at an Alice Springs school after sprinklers were left on in freezing temperatures
  • The Bureau of Meteorology forecaster said there was a risk of frost developing under 7C
  • Darwin also reached the coldest overnight temperature since 2011 this week with 12.7C recorded

Local Michael Smith was surprised to see icicles dripping from surfaces all around him when he went to start work on the grounds at Ross Park Primary School in Alice Springs yesterday.

But the cause of the icy scene might be more man-made than natural marvel.

“I started at about seven o’clock in the morning, just before the sun’s coming up,” Mr Smith said.

“I noticed the sprinkler was still on, which is unusual because it should’ve turned off during the night.

“I turned that off, but all the trees were covered in water which had then turned to ice.

“There were beautiful icicles there, and just as I happened to be looking at it, it was just on sunrise.

“I thought ‘it’d be nice to get a couple of photos of this.'”

Mr Smith said he reluctantly removed his warm gloves to snap a few photos, before the picturesque scene melted away an hour or so later.

He then showed the images to fellow staff members, who posted them to the school’s social media site.

He was surprised to see how far they went.

“It’s taken on a life of its own … It’s moved on to one thing and another.”

Chilly temperatures and icicles are usual in central Australia during winter. According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the average minimum temperature for June in Alice Springs is 5 degrees Celsius, but it can drop down to -6C.

What it takes to make icicles

BOM senior duty forecaster Sally Cutter said it did not take much to cause frost.

“Anything under about 7C you start seeing the risk of frost” Ms Cutter said.

“6C to 7C is a slight risk, 2C to 5C is moderate.”

Though she said that was only if there was a water source.

“Anything below 2C, if there’s enough water present, you’ve got a high risk of a frost,” she said.

“If you do water during these really cold nights, you do end up with a risk of frost.”

She said the minimums stayed under 0C in Alice Springs from last Thursday through to Monday, with the mercury dropping to -3.2C on Saturday morning — the coldest since the town’s 2018 winter.

Meanwhile in the Top End, Middle Point got down to 4.8C. It was the lowest overnight minimum since records began.

Darwin also reached 12.7C, the coldest since 2011.

As for more spectacular icicle photos at Ross Park Primary, Mr Smith said it was unlikely as the fault in the sprinkler had now been fixed.

Topics: weather, rural-media, primary-schools, secondary-schools, water, alice-springs-0870