Drought

Rainfall deficiencies persist in Tasmania, emerge near the west coast of Western Australia

May rainfall was below to very much below average across much of Western Australia, with large areas along the west coast and in the interior in decile 1 (lowest 10% of historical observations). Rainfall was also below average for large areas of South Australia in the west, south, and central east; northwestern New South Wales; and for much of Victoria away from the west, northern country, and far east. Following below average rainfall near the west coast of Western Australia in April, deficiencies are now emerging.

The Northern Territory, the northern Kimberley, and parts of northwestern to central northern Queensland also observed below average rainfall for the month, but May forms the first month of the dry season for northern Australia, and average rainfall is typically low for the months May to September. While areas of southwestern Queensland and the southeastern Northern Territory experienced a dry end to the wet season; significant rainfall totals are not likely before the return of the wet season.

3-month rainfall deficiencies

The west of Western Australia has experienced below average rainfall for both April and May, seeing the emergence of serious and severe rainfall deficiencies for the 3-month period in a broad area between Exmouth and the region north of Perth. Serious rainfall deficiencies have also emerged in pockets of the southern South West Land Division in Western Australia and on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The Climate Outlook for June to August indicates that a drier than average winter is likely across the south of both Western Australia and South Australia.

In Tasmania rainfall deficiencies remain at the 3-month timescale, covering the western highlands region.

NULL

Soil moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) decreased for May compared to April across the west and south of Western Australia, the Northern Territory, western Tasmania, and eastern New South Wales. Soil mositure increased across the interior of Western Australia and central South Australia.

Soil moisture for May was below average for the South West Land Division, western Gascoyne and western Pilbara in Western Australia; the Eyre Peninsula and pockets around Gulf St Vincent in South Australia; western and southern Tasmania; and a large area extending through the southeast of the Northern Territory and Queensland's west and the Maranoa and Warrego district.

Soil moisture for the month was above average for most of the Kimberley and the interior of Western Australia; the Top End and adjacent north of the Northern Territory; the south of the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and an area of the east coast extending from around Townsville in northern Queensland to northeastern New South Wales; western and southern Tasmania; and across an area extending from central South Australia through the southwest of New South Wales and the western half of Victoria.

  • May rainfall was below average for most of Western Australia, large parts of South Australia and Victoria, and northwestern New South Wales
  • Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are present at the 3-month timescale near the west coast of Western Australia, the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, and the western highlands of Tasmania
  • Soil moisture is below average across the west of Western Australia, much of inland Queensland and western parts of the Northern Territory, the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, and western Tasmania

Product code: IDCKGD0AR0


Soil moisture data is from the Bureau's Australian Water Resources Assessment Landscape (AWRA-L) model, developed through the Water Information Research and Development Alliance between the Bureau and CSIRO.
See: Australian Landscape Water Balance.

This section displays rainfall maps. Current drought status is described in the previous section. For historical drought status statements, go to archive of drought statements

Also available at Maps – recent conditions

What is drought?

Drought is a prolonged, abnormally dry period when the amount of available water is insufficient to meet our normal use. Drought is not simply low rainfall; if it was, much of inland Australia would be in almost perpetual drought. Because people use water in so many different ways, there is no universal definition of drought. Meteorologists monitor the extent and severity of drought in terms of rainfall deficiencies. Agriculturalists rate the impact on primary industries, hydrologists compare ground water levels, and sociologists define it by social expectations and perceptions.

It is generally difficult to compare one drought to another, since each drought differs in the seasonality, location, spatial extent and duration of the associated rainfall deficiencies. Additionally, each drought is accompanied by varying temperatures and soil moisture deficits.

Rainfall averages, variability and trends

Median rainfall map, links to climate average maps An area experiences a rainfall deficit when the total rain received is less than the average rainfall for that period.

Definitions

Definitions

Lowest on record - lowest since at least 1900 when the data analysed begin.
Severe deficiency - rainfalls in the lowest 5% of historical totals.
Serious deficiency - rainfalls in the lowest 10% of historical totals, but not in the lowest 5%.

Very much below average - rainfalls in the lowest 10% of historical totals.
Below average - rainfalls in the lowest 30% of historical totals, but not in the lowest 10%.
Average - rainfalls in the middle 40% of historical totals.
Above average - rainfalls in the highest 30% of historical totals, but not in the highest 10%.
Very much above average - rainfalls in the highest 10% of historical totals.

Australian Government drought assistance

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources information and contacts: