Drought Statement - Issued 5th February 2008


For the 8 and 24-month periods ending 31st January 2008

Long-term deficiencies remain in southern and eastern Australia

rainfall deficiencies definition
8-month rainfall deficiencies
24-month rainfall deficiencies

A La Niña event contributed to above average January rainfall across eastern Australia, excluding Tasmania and southern Victoria. However, long-term deficiencies still remain, especially in Tasmania, southeast Queensland, the west coast of WA and central Victoria into southern NSW. Short-term deficiencies remain in parts of southern Australia, excluding Victoria, and have increased slightly in South Australia and the southern NT.
See January rainfall pattern

For the 8-month period from June 2007 to January 2008, areas of serious to severe rainfall deficiencies covered parts of central and northeast SA, together with southeastern NT, scattered parts of WA, isolated areas of western NSW and an area in eastern Tasmania. When compared to the situation at the end of December, average to below average January rainfall across the western two thirds of the country and Tasmania has increased the total area of severe deficiencies in SA and southern NT, with central SA also showing an increased area of lowest on record.

Rainfall deficiencies for the 24-month period from February 2006 to January 2008 were widespread across the southeastern corner and west coast parts of the continent. Southeastern Queensland and north-central and southeastern SA were also affected. There were areas of lowest on record in WA from north of Perth to Shark Bay, in eastern Tasmania and in a large band from the east of Melbourne to the ACT. Above average rainfall along much of eastern Australia in January has slightly reduced the extent of severe deficiencies in southeast Queensland. However, average to below average rainfall elsewhere has led to an increase in severe deficiencies in southern SA and western WA.

The worst of the long-term deficiencies are likely to remain for some time. For example, above average (decile 8-9) rainfall is needed in the rainfall deficient areas over the next six months to elevate totals since February 2006 out of the lowest decile.

The deficiencies discussed above have occurred against a backdrop of decade-long rainfall deficits and record high temperatures that have severely stressed water supplies in the east and southwest of the country. Several years of above average rainfall are required to remove the very long-term deficits. Furthermore, the combination of heat and drought during the past five to ten years over the Murray Darling Basin and southeastern Australia is outside the typical range of variability experienced during the previous 100 years. For more information go to a recent Special Climate Statement on the six years of widespread drought in southern and eastern Australia, November 2001 to October 2007

Rainfall deficiency maps for standard periods out to three years are available.

Note: The terms used to describe rainfall in these Drought Statements have the following meanings -

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

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

For more information regarding this rainfall deficiencies statement, please contact the following climate meteorologists in the National Climate Centre:

Lyn Bettio on (03) 9669 4165
Blair Trewin on (03) 9669 4623
Grant Beard on (03) 9669 4527

External Sites Relating to Drought

The Bureau of Meteorology does not make formal drought declarations as these are done by either the relevant State Governments or by the Australian Government. The Australian Government Program is called Exceptional Circumstances and it is administered by the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). General information about Australian Government drought assistance is available at http://www.daff.gov.au/droughtassist.

Click on the map for full resolution.
Click on the map for full resolution.
A black and white version is also available.

Click on the map for full resolution.
Click on the map for full resolution.
A black and white version is also available.