Drought Statement Archive

Issued on 7 March 2013 by the National Climate Centre

Rainfall deficiencies worsen in inland Queensland, continue in the southeast

Severe rainfall deficiencies for the 7-month (August 2012 to February 2013) period have expanded in inland Queensland, the southern Cape York Peninsula and the Top End following below-average February rainfall across the north of both Queensland and the Northern Territory. The monsoon was late to arrive in northern Australia in 2013; so far the Top End has had its driest wet season for more than twenty years with some regions around Gove on track to record their driest wet on record. February rainfall across parts of southern South Australia, southern and western New South Wales, the eastern seaboard, and eastern Victoria was above average, owing mostly to some good falls across South Australia and the southeast during the last week of February in which many regions recorded 25 to 50 mm. These welcome falls eased 7-month rainfall deficiencies in western New South Wales, eastern South Australia and central Victoria and also had an impact on 11-month deficiencies in western New South Wales. While water storages for capital cities in the eastern States have generally increased or held steady on this time last year, storages in Darwin, Adelaide and Perth have dropped. More broadly in New South Wales water storages have dropped 19 per cent over all, year on year, with most large storages (excluding Warragamba) showing significant reductions.

Severe 7-month deficiencies cover much of South Australia, western Victoria, northern and central New South Wales and areas bordering South Australia and Victoria, southern Queensland, much of the Channel Country and southern Cape York Peninsula extending south to Richmond, as well as the coastal Top End. However, 6-month deficiencies (for spring–summer rainfall) in the cropping regions of southeastern South Australia and southwestern Victoria are notably more extensive than for the 7-month period, with much of this region having experienced 6-month rainfall in the lowest 5 per cent of records (severe deficiencies). August was the last month to record above-average rainfall across southwestern Victoria and the adjacent southeast corner of South Australia. Substantial areas of each State except Western Australia recorded spring–summer rainfall in the lowest 10 per cent of historical totals. A region of western Victoria from Dunkeld to Casterton recorded its driest summer on record and individual locations in Gippsland (Cabbage Tree Creek and Glenmaggie) also recorded their lowest summer totals. These very dry conditions along with Australia's hottest summer on record contributed to the severity of bushfires around Heyfield/Licola and the Grampians.

Soil moisture in the upper layer is average to below average away from the east coast for February and very much below average for parts of the far north, with significant wetting at the end of the month in eastern parts of New South Wales and southeast Queensland. Deeper soil moisture is very much below average across Top End and across the southwest of Western Australia into southeast South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Most of western Victoria between Horsham and the South Australian border, along with much of the Lower Southeast in South Australia, has received falls in the lowest 10 per cent of records for the 18-month period from September 2011 to February 2013.

The longer term rainfall deficiencies for the 11-month (April 2012 to February 2013) continue over much of the pastoral areas of South Australia and adjacent areas in eastern Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Deficiencies also remain in northern Victoria and southern and central New South Wales, although their distribution has slightly changed. Serious deficiencies in northern New South Wales now cross the border into Queensland while pockets of serious to severe deficiencies have expanded markedly in the Top End and southern Cape York Peninsula.

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For more information regarding this rainfall deficiencies statement, please contact the following climatologists:

Darren Ray (SA) (08) 8366 2664
Aaron Coutts-Smith (NSW) (02) 9296 1525
Karl Braganza (National) (03) 9669 4344

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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.