The weather in Perth
The weather in Western Australia varies massively from the cool south to the tropical north and arid desert in the centre. Perth is located towards the cooler southern end of Western Australia and its Mediterranean climate is beyond a doubt one of the most appealing factors for living in Perth.
The Bureau of Meteorology (Australian Government agency aka BOM), has a handy map that shows you the average, mean and maximum temperatures plus the rainfall around Western Australia to give you a good idea on what to expect from the climate.
As a local I can say that temperatures in the high 30’s and above, like 38°C (100°F) and over, get uncomfortable. On the odd days it gets over 40°C (104°F), people will be melting into sweaty blobs in the shade.
In winter temperatures can get low enough to put ice on the windshields and make our teeth chatter. Nothing compared to the freezing winters in the United Kingdom but it is certainly quite a contrast from the hot summers. Channel 9 News (a Perth TV station) published a story on the cold mornings in August 2017. It may serve to amuse anyone used to far colder climates (not helped by the credit card scraping the piddly bit of ice off the windscreen in the clip), but it was cold to us!
Beautiful summer days, extreme heat and dealing with the heat and sun
The weather is a huge attraction for so many people who come to Perth and so for the most part there is a good chance you are going to love it. However, there are some days in summer which get uncomfortably hot. Once it gets into the high 30°C’s and over 40°C (104°F), even the hardened will be wanting to slow down and seek shade. If you are acclimatised to hotter places than Perth, like north or central Western Australia, then Perth’s hottest days are unlikely to phase you. Every so often (years apart) it will get as high as 46°C (115°F) in Perth and that is just stuffing hot no matter what you are used to. Do whatever needs to be done outdoors early in the morning and late in the evening.
Back in the early 80’s SunSmart brought out a campaign to get people to look after themselves in the sun as melanoma rates were going up. Many of us remember the catch phrase from it being “slip, slop, slap”. That stood for slip on a t-shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. That still holds true today for preparing for the sun. Get the best sunscreen you can, it’s an investment in keeping you safe for your long, happy and productive life. It really doesn’t take long to burn in the sun here. With my fair skin I can at times get burnt in less than 30 minutes.
Pretty sure most of the world’s population is on top of the hazards of sunbaking, but in case you missed the memo, don’t do it. Australia’s Cancer Council website provides all the information you need on being smart in the sun including what type of sunscreen to use.
The Fremantle Doctor is what we in Perth call the cool afternoon sea breeze which comes in summer starting early afternoon for the south west coastal areas and can go as far as 100 kilometres inland. It is a welcome relief on hot days.
You look so cool in those sunglasses!
There is well established evidence that exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun can lead to eye damage. Sunglasses are an effective method of sun protection when used with a combination of other protective measures. Source Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
SunSmart put out a video for us to help choose the right glasses, it might make it easier to choose the right sunglasses for you which is below.
All sunglasses sold in Australia must be tested and labelled according to the Australian/New Zealand Standard for Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles. This mandatory standard sets limits on the allowed transmittances of fashion spectacles and sunglasses. Source Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
If you buy your sunglasses in Australia then you have the added protection of Australian standards being applied.
Staying warm or cool in the house
Not all housing has heating and cooling built in, especially the older homes. Not to worry, there are easy ways to deal with that.
For the hot days in summer, if you do not have a cooling system then a fan will help bring welcome relief. Perth’s power costs are a little steep so beware of systems that are expensive to run such as refrigerative air conditioners. Evaporative cooling systems are better on the power costs but not quite as cool. However I have an evaporative air conditioner and find it is simply fine for the very hot days. I don’t typically use any cooling but when I do it is normally just the evaporative air conditioner fan. Whether that suits you will come down to personal experience.
We have our share of sunny days in winter in Perth which are glorious, but the evenings and mornings can be quite chilly, sometimes getting down to a few degrees. While our winters are far milder than anything you might experience in say England, Scotland or perhaps even Canada, we don’t typically run heating 24/7 (power is expensive). To heat a room there are the standard options of electric heaters, gas heaters and wood fireplaces.
I have a small electric heater which is used on very few occasions if it is really cold. Around the house, snuggly warm ugg boots are fabulous accompanied by a fluffy blanket! Actually my children bought a heated blanket that is so nice during winter while watching TV. The cats are like heat sensors. Turn on the blanket and they appear from thin air to snuggle in with me. This is pretty much how I spend winter evenings.
I also love my heated blanket on my bed even if just to warm it up before jumping in, which is probably enough. If you don’t want a heated blanket and don’t want to jump into a bed with cold sheets, then you could get the good old hot water bottle or flannelette sheets.
All houses have gutters that are connected to soak wells buried in the ground. It is important to keep the gutters clean for winter.
Dressing for the climate
When the heat hits in the middle of the day, ensure you have access to shade and water. If you absolutely must be outside, then you need to cover up as much as possible with light, but full length top, same for the pants and a hat. Sunscreen goes on whatever isn’t covered up. Try not to out in the sun during the hottest parts of the day.
If your work takes you outside, then you will be required to take certain precautions anyway. Employers are responsible for ensuring you are safe and that includes from the sun and heat. Those in construction or trades that work outdoors, will often start early and finish early afternoon. There aren’t any ‘stop work’ temperatures as such (that would kill mining production!), but employers do need to keep you safe so being sent to work on a roof in 42 degree heat for example, really unlikely to happen. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to keep you safe including from illness from working in heat. See the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety page Working safely in hot conditions for more information.
Offices have temperature control so summer and winter are going to be relatively easy. For summer light clothes will be sufficient for travelling but you can at times I have found I need a cardigan or jacket during summer in the office because there can be cold spots in the office or the temperature control is set to low for my comfort.
For winter, travelling to and from the office I would use a warm coat (as long as possible), a scarf and sometimes gloves.
Umbrellas are occasionally useful, more so if we have a few days in a row of rain. I personally don’t bother with an umbrella if working in the city as I rarely remember to take one and the majority of the year they just catch dust. If I had to walk some distance in the rain then I would focus more on having an umbrella around.
The rain may be gentle or it can bucket down, it isn’t very often that it is a drizzle and it is rare to just rain non stop for days on end.
For those working outdoors, a jumper and warm waterproof jacket may be enough. If it is physical work then you will quickly warm up and will probably end up taking most of it off, unless it is pouring down.
For spring and autumn there are times it is difficult to dress for as the temperature can fluctuate between crispy cool to quite warm in a single day. One of my friends who came over from England found the Spring days quite difficult to dress for. As she said, in one day you experience four seasons, temperature wise that is. The day will range from being crisp where you might need more than just a jumper to keep warm to stripping off for the afternoon as the heat builds up. Then reverse it all for the night. That was not to say she didn’t love the spring days, they are magnificent. It was simply noting how the weather can range in a single day.
Drying the washing in winter
I have a clothes drier which for most of the year goes unused. It is more a little luxury than a necessity. For winter there are the odd days that I use it either because I want something quicker than it will dry or because we are having a few wet days in a row. I never had one when my children were young and we got through just fine without having to bring washing into the house to get it dry. However if I did it all over again, I would get one.
Cars in the heat
If you have a choice of car colours, avoid dark which heat up more. Cars can get incredibly hot and vinyl seats left in the sun can down right burn your butt. Steering wheels can also get incredibly hot and may be difficult to touch at first when left in the searing sun. Using a reflector screen on the windscreen will help and if you get a cheap one then who cares if you can’t be bothered folding it back up each time you get back in your car.
Keeping a towel in the car is another option to either cover the seat while the vehicle is vacant or to put on the seat when you return. That is so much nicer than burning your legs when you sit down on that hot seat in a pair of shorts. If there is more than just one person getting in the car, the reflector would be the better option, it’s not just the driver’s seat that burns!
Never leave children or animals unattended in cars in the warm weather.