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Central Australian Fronts Expedition

Central Australian Fronts Experiment (CAFE)

CAFE96 was carried out in the region between Giles (Western Australia) and the Gulf of Carpentaria between late August and early October 1996. This covered Alice Springs and Mt Isa through to Townsville.

Regional map of the CAFE study area

The experiment was organised by and involved the collaboration of Monash University, The Australian National University, The University of New South Wales and the University of Munich, Germany with the support of the Bureau of Meteorology's Northern Territory Regional Office.

Eddy covariance equipment Surface automatic weather station

Tethersonde balloon near Alice Springs Bowen ratio system Alice Springs

It was the second of two major field experiments designed to improve understanding of the behavior of subtropical continental cold fronts. Primary objectives of the project were to:

  • Investigate the structure and dynamics of the inland heat trough and the subtropical cold fronts that affect Central and northeastern Australia
  • Determine the nature of the interactions between the advancing fronts, the developing nocturnal inversion and the transformation of fronts into propagating bore-like disturbances

The Bowen ratio system (left and right) along with radiation sensors (middle)

The major role of the Monash Environmental Climatology Group was to determine the spatial and temporal nature of the surface energy fluxes that are fundamental to the evolution of the fronts. This involved detailed surface flux measurements at Alice Springs and Mount Isa for the 7 week duration of CAFE96.


Beringer, J. and N. Tapper, 2000, "The influence of subtropical cold fronts on the surface energy balance of a semi-arid site." Journal of Arid Environments, 44, 437-450.

Reeder, M., R. Smith, R. Deslandes, N. Tapper and G. Mills, 2000,"Subtropical fronts observed during the 1996 Central Australian Fronts Experiment." Australian Meteorological Magazine , 49, 181-200.