Drought

Rainfall deficiencies develop in southern Queensland after a dry April

April rainfall was below to very much below average across large parts of Queensland, eastern and central regions of the Northern Territory, southwestern Western Australia, eastern New South Wales and much of Tasmania. This has led to the development of short-term rainfall deficiencies across southwestern Queensland.

Rainfall was above average for central Western Australia, much of South Australia, western New South Wales and western Victoria.

6-month rainfall deficiencies

A drier than average April across Queensland has seen a renewal of rainfall deficiencies in some areas. Scattered pockets of serious and severe deficiency are present at the 6-month time scale across inland areas in the southern half of Queensland. Above average rainfall across eastern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales in March, due to tropical cyclone Debbie, had removed areas of deficiency that had developed in the region since the start of the Northern Wet Season in November. However, dry conditions persisted across inland areas that did not receive rainfall from this system. This is the fifth consecutive wet season with drier-than-average conditions for many areas in central and western Queensland.

Isolated pockets of serious rainfall deficiencies persist in East Gippsland in Victoria at the 6-month time scale.

3-month rainfall deficiencies

A drier than average April across much of Queensland saw the development of 3-month severe and serious deficiencies in southwestern Queensland, southeastern parts of the Northern Territory and surrounding areas. The second half of the northern wet season (February to April) has been drier than average over a large region covering much of the southern half of the Northern Territory, northern parts of South Australia, much of Queensland, excluding southeastern coastal regions and northwest New South Wales. After a drier than average February across much of New South Wales and Queensland, above average rainfall in March, largely due to tropical cyclone Debbie, relieved 5-month deficiencies in coastal regions, but continued dry conditions in April has led to the development of extensive areas of short term deficiencies at the 3-month time scale in inland areas.

Deficiencies are also present across much of Tasmania at the 3-month time scale, and although this was a climatologically drier time of the year for southern parts of Australia the situation will continue to be monitored.

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Soil moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) increased across western Victoria, eastern parts of Queensland and New South Wales for April compared to March, but decreased across parts of central to western Queensland and southwestern Western Australia.

Soil moisture for April was below average for large areas of Queensland south of the Cape York Peninsula away from eastern coastal areas, southwestern Western Australia, eastern parts of the Northern Territory and small areas in western New South Wales and Tasmania.

Soil moisture for the month was above average for most of Western Australia, the west of the Northern Territory and the Top End, an area of western Victoria, and large parts of the east coast impacted by tropical cyclone Debbie in March.

  • April rainfall was below average for much of Queensland, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and southwest Western Australia
  • Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are present at the 3-month timescale in the Northern Territory into southwestern Queensland and surrounding areas
  • Soil moisture is below average across much of Queensland and western parts of the Northern Territory

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: