Snow flurries cool summer in Australia

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Australia is following its second-hottest year on record with extraordinary snow flurries in its southeastern alpine region, where some towns have recorded their first-ever summer snowfalls.

Australia's temperatures during the summer months of December through February can be uncomfortably hot even on its highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, which stands at a modest 2,228 meters above sea level.

Snow fell to 900 meters above sea level yesterday in parts of New South Wales and Victoria states, Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding said.

"Any time of year, it's unusual to have snow down that far," she said.

Golding said a cold front had brought frigid air from the Antarctic Ocean to southeast Australia.

Normal summer temperatures are expected to return to the region tomorrow.

The town of Bombala in New South Wales, east of Kosciuszko, recorded its first summer snow since the bureau began keeping records there in 1965, Golding said.

The town of Cooma, also in New South Wales but north of Kosciuszko, recorded its first summer snow since records were first kept in 1973.

Cooma resident Krystal Pernitsch said the wind chill factor made yesterday's high temperature of 15 degrees Celsius feel like 9 degrees.

"It's a bit of a shock to the system after last week," when the mercury reached 37 degrees, she said.

The unseasonable snowfalls were not heavy enough to cause major disruptions.

The Bureau of Meteorology released a report two weeks ago that found 2009 was Australia's second-hottest year since reliable records were first kept in 1910 and ended the hottest decade on record. Australia's hottest year was 2005.

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