Issued 4 March 2003

Heavy February rain brings relief

Widespread above average rainfall in February brought significant relief to many areas that had been suffering rainfall deficiencies, the Bureau of Meteorology announced today. Periods of rainfall deficiency were ended over large areas, but in parts of southern Victoria and eastern Tasmania rainfall deficiencies expanded and intensified following below average rainfall in February.

11-month rainfall deficiencies

For the 11-month period from April to February, serious to severe rainfall deficiencies stretch from far north Queensland across most of NSW, parts of eastern SA and over the eastern two-thirds of Victoria. Also affected are eastern Tasmania, parts of west and south WA, as well as the eastern inland of WA and the adjacent region in the NT. Despite this situation, over much of central Queensland and the far west and central parts of NSW, February rainfall was of sufficient magnitude that a three-month total from February to April would already be considered "near-average" in these parts.

The heaviest falls occurred within about 100km of the coast between Rockhampton and Gladstone, and rainfall deficiencies are no longer analysed between Mackay and Grafton for the period dating from April 2002. Widespread heavy falls over the NT, much of SA and most of western Victoria were also sufficient to end the period of rainfall deficiency.

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15-month rainfall deficiencies

For the 15-month period from December 2001 to February 2003, some additional areas between Fraser Island and the mid-north coast of NSW have also experienced serious to severe rainfall deficiencies.

The heavy rain in February marks a significant change in Australia’s rainfall patterns and is consistent with the decay phase of previous El Niño events. A continuation of this trend would suggest that further follow-up rains are likely over eastern Australia during autumn.

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Definitions

Lowest on record - lowest in the historical analysis, which runs from 1900.
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.

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