Issued 4 January 2006

Driest year on record in parts of southern Australia

December rainfall totals were generally below average across the drought-affected parts of eastern and southern Australia, with rainfall deficits therefore remaining widespread over Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and southern Queensland. It was the driest year on record (back to 1900) across parts of the south, most notably in northern and parts of eastern Tasmania, northeast Victoria and adjacent parts of southern NSW and the ACT.

The period from August to December was especially warm and dry across the southern half of the country. Averaged over the Murray-Darling Basin it was the driest such period on record as well as being the second warmest, with much of the central-west and southwest slopes of NSW having mean maximum temperatures more than 3°C above the long-term average. SA and Victoria had their second driest August to December period, while in area-average terms it was the warmest last five months of the year for the country as a whole, as well as for WA, SA and Victoria.

A poor start to the northern wet season has also caused short-term rainfall deficiencies to develop across some parts of tropical Australia.

5-month rainfall deficiencies

For the 5-month period from August to December, generally severe rainfall deficiencies covered most of SA apart from the northeast quarter, all of Victoria, northern and eastern Tasmania, most of NSW west of a line from Bega to Tamworth to Bourke, southern inland Queensland, parts of northwest and northern Queensland, areas in the northern NT and the coastal zone between Albany and Esperance in southern WA. Record low falls were widely scattered about all these areas.

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12-month rainfall deficiencies

For the 2006 calendar year, serious to severe rainfall deficiencies affected a large part of southeast Queensland centred on about Charleville, much of the southern half of NSW west of the ranges, Victoria (apart from far East Gippsland), northern and eastern Tasmania, southeastern SA and a coastal strip in WA from Carnarvon to Albany. In addition, areas near Bourke and from Alice Springs to south of Tarcoola also have deficiencies for this period. Record low falls are analysed along Tasmania’s north coast as well as in parts of the southeast of that State. Records were also broken in the mountainous regions of northeast Victoria and southeast NSW extending into parts of the southwest slopes, central tablelands and central-west, on the SA/Victoria border near Bordertown and in a few patches along the southwest coast of WA. It was also the driest year on record in a small region just to the south of Oodnadatta.

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The deficiencies discussed above have occurred against a backdrop of multi-year rainfall deficits that have severely stressed water supplies in the east and southwest of the country.

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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