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Snow in Brisbane is rare but other parts of Queensland fare better

Even Australia's major cold snap this week may not be enough for the city to improve on its lousy record when it comes to seeing snowflakes.

Snow chasers flocking to the Queensland-NSW border this week may not think of Brisbane as a possible snow-spotting location, and save for just a few occasions in the past 100 years they've been right.

Key points:
  • Snow has been reported in Brisbane as far back as the 1860s
  • The city isn't likely to see snow this cold snap, but the border region might
  • The state's largest recorded snow event was in 1965 when it was as far north as Mackay

The Bureau of Meteorology has only three official records of snow in Brisbane: June 1927, June 1932 (witnessed by seven people), and September 1958 (light flakes were seen by four people at 5:15pm in Moorooka, Wooloowin, Bowen Hills and Taringa. 

Snow was last reported in Queensland generally on June 4, 2019 in Girraween National Park and at Eukey near Stanthorpe. 

On Wednesday, daytime temperatures plummeted anywhere from 3 to 8 degrees below June averages across the state's south-east.

Toowoomba, the Granite Belt and Darling Downs have more commonly reported snow than Brisbane, with newspapers from as far back as the 1860s reporting the "unusual visitation" of snowflakes.

But in July 1882, the Brisbane Courier reported snow was confirmed in Brisbane and Toowoomba.

"The snow was most noticeable in Woolloongabba, but in Stanley Street, South Brisbane it was sufficiently heavy to allow of people wiping it from their clothing.

"In the vicinity of the museum the fall was, though very slight, plainly noticeable.

"It is said that snow fell in this city 35 years ago, and the summer following the period of the fall was remarkable for its excessive heat."

Three-year-old Massimo Leonardi looks out over snow covering the ground at Ballandean near Stanthorpe.Three-year-old Massimo Leonardi looks out over snow covering the ground at Ballandean near Stanthorpe.
One of Queensland's biggest snow events in recent times was around Ballandean in 2015.(

ABC News: Mark Leonardi

)
'Delicate flakes' in 1927

Light falls of snow were reported several times through the years following. In June 1927, the Brisbane Courier stated:

"The very suggestion that snow has fallen in Brisbane is enough to raise an incredulous smile on the face of the most sedate, yet there are people who assert that they saw snowflakes fall in the city yesterday.

"The 'downpour' lasted for only a few seconds and the flakes were so delicate that a sharp eye was required to identify them, but undoubtedly they were snow."

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A photo of the country politicians' lodge in the grounds of Parliament House — a building that was demolished in the 1970s — appears to show thick snow or hail dusting the building and its garden.

The date of the photo is uncertain. It forms part of the State Library of Queensland's digitised collection of film negatives from the Truth newspaper, a tabloid that specialised in sport, crime and gossip from 1900 to 1954.

The photo may have been taken during the 1927 snowfall but was not published that month.

Instead, a copy of the photo appears in a December 1933 Truth article about the lodge and politicians' summertime habits, and is dated accordingly.

Snow fights and bushfires

Snow fell on the border in 1932, when the Maryborough Chronicle reported opportunistic Wallangarra residents had a fight using snow carried in on the mail train.

In 1938, rain, hail and snow hit the Darling Downs and Toowoomba, forcing a plane flying from Brisbane to Toowoomba to turn back at Gatton for fear of climbing over the range into icy wild winds — the snow missed Brisbane.

A snowy road with a warning sign.A snowy road with a warning sign.
Snow at Girraween National Park near Stanthorpe on July 17, 2015.(

ABC News: Gordon Fuad

)

In October 1941, Brisbane was battling bushfires and Caboolture pineapple farms were destroyed by a blaze — all while Stanthorpe residents "indulged" in snowball fights, the Central Queensland Herald reported.

More recently, a cold snap in 1984 saw blankets of snow and ice fall across New South Wales, Victoria and parts of south-east Queensland, including Stanthorpe, with anecdotal reports of snow in Brisbane.

Heavier snow falls occurred in 2015 and 2019 across the Granite Belt, enough to cover towns and for people to make snowmen. 

The 2015 snowfalls were estimated as some of Queensland's heaviest in 30 years.

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The weather bureau says it has snowed, on average, about every two to three years in Queensland since the 1970s; prior to that it snowed every one to two years.

The state's largest recorded snow event was in 1965, when snow was reported across swathes of western and central Queensland, even as far north as Eungella National Park west of Mackay.

This time, Brisbane appears set to miss out again.

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