Issued 3 March 2008

Short-term rainfall deficiencies develop in the southeast and central NT

Despite a La Niña event contributing to above average rainfall across parts of tropical and eastern Australia, the southeast of the NT has been much drier than normal since the start of the northern wet season in October. In addition, higher than average temperatures have exacerbated these rainfall deficits. In parts of eastern Australia, there was a slight easing of rainfall deficiencies at the two-year timescale, although the overall pattern remains the same.
See summer rainfall pattern

5-month rainfall deficiencies

For the 5-month period from October 2007 to February 2008, an area of serious to severe rainfall deficiencies developed in the southeast of the Northern Territory and the adjacent far west of Queensland. There were also some smaller patches near and to the north of Tennant Creek in the Barkly district. Maximum temperatures of one to two degrees above average have worsened the dry conditions.

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24-month rainfall deficiencies

Rainfall deficiencies for the 24-month period from March 2006 to February 2008 were analysed in southwest WA, Tasmania, southeast Queensland, northern SA and in a band stretching from the Bight coast of SA across much of Victoria and the western slopes and plains of southern NSW. The pattern is very similar to that observed at the end of January, but as February 2008 was substantially wetter than February 2006 in eastern Australia, there was some easing of these two-year deficits in southeast Queensland and southern NSW. Record-low falls were widespread along the west coast of WA and in eastern Tasmania, with a few patches in the southeast of the mainland.

The worst of the long-term deficiencies are likely to remain for some time. For example, above to very much above average (deciles 8-10) rainfall is needed in the rainfall deficient areas over the next six months just to elevate totals since March 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

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Climate

Service notice

Network problems on 8 January disrupted processing of observations, affecting some climate information. Missing data are being retrieved and will be processed into our systems over coming weeks.