Dry continues along the west coast, wet in most other areas

For Australia as a whole, the area-averaged rainfall total in January was 47.4% above the (1961–1990) average, the ninth-wettest January on record (since observations began in 1900).

Rainfall was below average in some areas along Australia's west coast and a few small areas in north-eastern New South Wales and eastern Queensland. January rainfall was very much below average (in the lowest 10% of Januarys on record since 1900) for parts of the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne and South West districts of Western Australia.

January rainfall was very much above average (in the highest 10% of Januarys on record since 1900) for much of Victoria, large parts in the north of the Northern Territory, central and southern New South Wales, southern South Australia, and scattered areas across Western Australia and Queensland. January rainfall was the highest on record for much of the Northern Territory's Gregory district, extending into adjacent Daly, Carpentaria and Barkly districts, and for Victoria's North Central district. Many stations, with at least 20 years of data, in these areas had their record highest rainfall total for January. Victoria had it fifth-wettest January on record, with state-wide rainfall more than double the average. For the Northern Territory as a whole, it was the fourth-wettest January on record, at 90.2% above the 1961-1990 average, the wettest January since 1984.

The monsoon arrived at Darwin and parts of the Top End on the 10th and moved over Far North Queensland on the 11th, about two weeks later than average.

Much warmer than average temperatures in much of Western Australia, South Australia and large parts of New South Wales, southern Northern Territory and southern Queensland potentially increased evapotranspiration in those regions.

For the 6-month period since August 2023, areas of severe or serious rainfall deficiencies (totals in the lowest 5% or 10% of periods since 1900) have persisted along much of the west coast and into the South East Coastal district in Western Australia, including areas of lowest on record rainfall in the Central West district, the south-west of the Kimberley district, and some inland areas, including the Southern Interior district. Coastal fringes of south-eastern South Australia, south-western Victoria, and northern and western Tasmania had small areas of rainfall deficiency.

For the 9-month period since May 2023, areas of severe or serious rainfall deficiencies (totals in the lowest 5% or 10% of periods since 1900) extend across much of the west of Western Australia and in an area of the state's Southern Interior district. In eastern Australia, areas with rainfall deficiency include parts of coastal northern New South Wales.

For the 14-month period since December 2022, areas with severe or serious rainfall deficiencies (totals in the lowest 5% or 10% of periods since 1900) include coastal Western Australia, between Exmouth and Cape Leeuwin, and some inland areas in the south-west. In eastern Australia, small areas of rainfall deficiency are concentrated in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.

Since December, areas of deficiency have generally expanded or intensified in Western Australia, but eased in eastern Australia except for long-term deficiencies in small areas of north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland.

The long-range forecast released on 1 February 2024 , indicates that, except for northern Queensland and parts of southern New South Wales, February rainfall is likely to be below median for most of Australia, and February to April rainfall is likely to be below median for most of Australia with the exception of parts of south-eastern Western Australia and areas in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria.

State of the Climate 2022 reported a long-term shift towards drier conditions across the south-west and south-east of Australia, particularly during the cool season months of April to October. This is due to a combination of natural variability on decadal timescales and changes in large-scale circulation caused by an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Since the 1990s, in the absence of strong 'wet' drivers, cool season (April to October) rainfall in southern Australia has generally been lower than average.

Deficiencies for the 6 months since August 2023

For the 6-month period since August 2023, areas with severe or serious rainfall deficiencies (totals in the lowest 5% or 10% of periods since 1900) have persisted along much of the west coast and into the South East Coastal district in Western Australia, including areas of lowest on record rainfall in the Central West district and the south-west of the Kimberley district. There were also inland areas of deficiency, including a large area in the Southern Interior district.

Coastal fringes of south-eastern South Australia, south-western Victoria, and northern and western Tasmania had small areas of rainfall deficiency.

Since December 2023, large areas of rainfall deficiency have developed in the Pilbara and Gascoyne districts and extended into the Kimberley district in Western Australia. Deficiency areas have generally cleared or eased in eastern Australia.

Deficiencies for the 9 months since May 2023

For the 9-month period since May 2023, areas of severe or serious rainfall deficiencies (totals in the lowest 5% or 10% of periods since 1900) have extended across much of the west of Western Australia and part of the south-west Kimberley district. There were large areas of lowest on record rainfall in the Gascoyne and Central West districts, and small areas in the south-west. Deficiency areas also include part of the Southern Interior district. In the east, areas of rainfall deficiency include parts of coastal northern New South Wales.

During January, areas of 9-month rainfall deficiency expanded in the Pilbara and increased in severity along the west of Western Australia but reduced in extent or severity elsewhere in the state and cleared in the Eucla district. Small deficiency areas eased in eastern Australia.

Deficiencies for the 14 months since December 2022

For the 14-month period since December 2022, areas with severe or serious rainfall deficiencies (totals in the lowest 5% or 10% of periods since 1900) include coastal Western Australia between Exmouth and Cape Leeuwin and inland areas in the south-west. In eastern Australia, areas of deficiency are concentrated in the south-eastern corner of Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.

Since December 13-month rainfall deficiencies have cleared in the Eucla district but extend further north along the west coast into the Pilbara district of Western Australia. Deficiencies have generally eased in eastern Australia.

NULL

Below average soil moisture in the west

January root-zone soil moisture (soil moisture in the top 100 cm) was below to very much below average (driest 30 to 10% of years since 1911) in the north-west and parts of the south of Western Australia, including small areas of lowest on record soil moisture along the southern Kimberley coast and around Cape Leewin. There were also areas of below average soil moisture in parts of central Australia, south-west South Australia, Tasmania and small pockets in south-west Queensland.

Areas of above to very much above average rainfall (wettest 30 to 10% of years since 1911) included areas of inland and southern coastal Western Australia, much of South Australia, Victoria, south- west New South Wales, and large areas in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Since December, soil moisture increased in much of northern Australia and across the south-east of the mainland. It also increased in Tasmania but remained below average in other areas.

High evaporative stress in large areas of the west and parts of northern Australia

Evaporative stress for the 4 weeks ending 31 January 2024 is elevated (index is negative) from the west coast of Western Australia except in parts of the south coast, into western South Australia and much of the Northern Territory, particularly in parts of the Top End. Small areas of northern New South Wales and inland and north-western Queensland as well as some coastal fringes in Tasmania, also had elevated evaporative stress.

Compared to last month, the evaporative stress index decreased significantly in intensity across
the south-east of Australia and increased in the north-west.

See the journal publication for further details on calculation and use of evaporative stress index in drought monitoring.

  • Rainfall in January was above average for most of Australia. The national area-averaged rainfall total was 47.4% above the 1961–1990 average, the ninth-wettest January on record (since observations began in 1900).
  • Rainfall was below average for much of Australia's west coast and small parts of north-eastern New South Wales.
  • The extent of areas with rainfall deficiencies, including those with record low rainfall, expanded in Western Australia, particularly in the Pilbara and Gascoyne districts, but generally eased in eastern Australia.
  • Longer term rainfall deficiencies, of 9 to 14 months, are largely in Western Australia, but also in small areas of north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland.
  • January soil moisture was very much below average for large areas of Western Australia and scattered areas in the Northern Territory and South Australia.
  • Low streamflow was observed in January at sites in the west of Western Australia, scattered areas in the south and east of the Murray–Darling Basin, and in the east of Tasmania.
  • Storage levels remain low in some parts of central Queensland, inland and south-eastern parts of New South Wales, central Tasmania, western Victoria, and Perth.
  • The long-range forecast released on 1 February 2024 indicates that, except for northern Queensland and parts of southern New South Wales, February rainfall is likely to be below median for most of Australia, and February to April rainfall is likely to be below median for most of Australia with the exception of parts of south-eastern Western Australia and areas in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria.

Low streamflow in west of Western Australia and high in northern and south-eastern Australia

In January, streamflows reflected rainfall patterns. Above to very much above average streamflow was observed at 55% of sites due to intense rainfall over the Northern Territory brought on by the Monsoon trough and an embedded tropical low. High streamflow in the north tropical coast, central and south-eastern Queensland, and north-eastern New South Wales were associated with high rainfall from Ex-Tropical Cyclone Kirrily. High streamflow at sites in Victoria and inland New South Wales were associated with heavy rainfall from a slow-moving low pressure trough in January. Very much above average streamflow was observed at 24% of sites, mainly in the Northern Territory, north-eastern wet tropics of Queensland, south-eastern Queensland, north-eastern and south-eastern New South Wales, south of the Murray–Darling Basin, and Victoria due to very much above average rainfall in these areas.

Low streamflow in Western Australia, eastern Tasmania and scattered sites in New South Wales were associated with areas of average to below average rainfall and soil moisture conditions for January. Below to very much below average streamflow was observed at 12% of the 852 sites across the country, mostly associated with below average rainfall and dry catchment conditions, particularly in the west of Western Australia, scattered sites in the south and east Murray-Darling Basin, and eastern Tasmania. Streamflow was average at 33% of the 852 sites across the country (based on records since 1975).

In January, moderate to major flood warnings were issued for rivers in Northern Australia, eastern and inland Queensland, eastern New South Wales, Western Australia, and north-western Victoria. Major flooding in Queensland and New South Wales were brought on by heavy rainfall in already wet river catchments, due to ex-tropical cyclone Kirrily. Wet catchments and downstream movement of floodwater resulted in above average streamflow at sites in these areas.

Streamflow decile rankings across Australia
Streamflow conditions in January 2024

Overall high storage levels across the country, but low storage levels at several locations

In January, average to above average rainfall across most of the Australia although below average rainfall and soil moisture, particularly for west coast of Western Australia, resulted in a slight increase in some storage levels from December. By the end of December, the total water storage level in Australia (across Australia's 306 public storages) was at 77.7% of capacity, slightly higher (3.6%) than the previous month, and lower than at the same time last year. Despite most of Australia's major storages being high, storage volumes remain low in several locations (and decreased volumes for 139 storages), particularly in central Queensland, inland and south-eastern parts of New South Wales, central Tasmania, western Victoria and urban areas of Perth.

Major storage levels across Australia
Storage conditions in January 2024

Combined storages in the Murray–Darling Basin were 84.5% full at the end of January a slight decrease, by 0.9%, from December, and also a decrease of 12.2% from the same time last year. Menindee Lakes in the west of New South Wells, decreased to 56.3% full at the end of January, a 3.6% decrease from December and a 59.9% decrease from the same time last year (116.2%).

Due to average to below average rainfall and dry catchment conditions in January for west and south-west coastal areas of Western Australia, there was a slight decrease in some storage levels. Perth's surface water storages remained below the half capacity (43.9% full) at the end of January, a 2.6% decrease from December, and an 8.4% decrease from the same time last year. Long-term declines in surface water inflows to Perth's storages means the city's water supply is generally more reliant on desalination and groundwater sources.

Despite above average rainfall in January, some storages remained low in the North East Coast drainage division. In central Queensland, water storage in Fairbairn was below half capacity at the end of January, at 29.0%, a slight increase (6.7% ) from December, but it was an 8.4% decrease from same time last year.

Despite average to above average rainfall in January, below average rainfall and dry catchment conditions from previous months meant water storage in Great Lake in Tasmania was slightly decreased to 32.5% full by the end of January, a 1.1% decrease from December and it was a 10.1% decrease from same time last year (41.5%).

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.

Creative Commons By Attribution logo Unless otherwise noted, all maps, graphs and diagrams in this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence