Issued on 5 March 2014
Rainfall deficiencies continue in eastern Australia despite easing in western Queensland
February rainfall was generally average to above average during February through northern Australia and the remainder of the mainland except along the west coast, east coast and across Victoria. As a result rainfall deficiencies have eased in western Queensland, lifting much of this area out of the lowest 10% of rainfall records for 17-month and 23-month periods ending February.
February rainfall was below average for southern Victoria, northern Tasmania, northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland. Apart from eastern New South Wales, these areas are generally not experiencing serious rainfall deficiencies at the timescales discussed in the Drought Statement, though serious shorter-term rainfall deficiencies (in the lowest 10% of records) are evident across northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland and smaller areas of the southeast for the 6-month and 3-month periods ending February.
17-month rainfall deficiencies
Rainfall deficits for the 17-month (October 2012 to February 2014) period have eased across western Queensland and adjacent parts of the Northern Territory. Much of the area west of a line connecting the corner of the South Australian border and Normanton, on the Gulf coast, has been elevated above the lowest 10% of records for 17-month periods ending February. Less marked easing of deficiencies also occurred in northeastern South Australia and central Queensland.
Serious to severe deficiencies (lowest 10% to 5% of records) remain in central Queensland and in an area inland of the Great Dividing Range extending from southern Queensland into northern New South Wales as well as in small areas around the Queensland–South Australian border (affecting the Northern Territory, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland) and in eastern New South Wales, western Victoria and on the coast of Western Australia near Shark Bay.
Much of Queensland more than 300 km inland of the coast, the southeast of the Northern Territory, northeast South Australia and parts of northern New South Wales have received less than 60% of the long-term (1961–1990) average rainfall for the 17-month period ending February. In other words, while serious and severe deficiencies have contracted and eased, rainfall has remained well below average for a significant period of time, and recent rain has not seen this situation significantly improved.
23-month rainfall deficiencies
Rainfall deficiencies for the 23-month (April 2012 to February 2014) period have eased significantly across western Queensland, with less pronounced easing across the east of the Northern Territory and South Australia and along the eastern border of South Australia. Deficiencies in much of western Queensland and adjacent parts of the Northern Territory, and smaller areas in northern South Australia and along the border between South Australia and Victoria and New South Wales, have risen above the lowest 10% of records.
Serious to severe deficiencies (lowest 10% to 5% of records) persist in areas of western and inland northern Queensland, a large area around the Queensland–South Australia border and smaller areas along the eastern border of South Australia, an area extending from inland southern Queensland through much of New South Wales inland of the coastal ranges and into northwestern and north-central Victoria. Deficiencies also persist in an area between Geraldton and Shark Bay on the west coast of Western Australia.
Much of southwestern and southern Queensland, inland northern New South Wales, northern South Australia and an area covering northwestern Victoria and the New South Wales Riverina have received less than 70% of the average rainfall for a 23-month period ending February.
Soil moisture in the upper soil layer has increased across much of eastern Australia following recent rainfall and is very much above average across southern South Australia, much of New South Wales, Queensland west of the Great Dividing Range and around the Gulf of Carpentaria. Values have moved closer to average in southwest Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, but remain below average along the coastal southwest, southern Victoria and in northern and western Tasmania. Values continue to be very much below average for a region spanning northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland. Soil moisture has decreased across much of the Northern Territory and Western Australia away from the west coast and is now average to above average for this area.
Lower-layer weekly soil moisture generally shows a similar pattern to early January, although increasing further (broadly very much above average) across a broad band along the northwestern coast and around the Gulf of Carpentaria and in the Goldfields District of Western Australia. Soil moisture is also above average in eastern Tasmania and along the southern coast between Esperance and western Victoria. Soil moisture is below average along the western coast of Western Australia and across the Central Wheat Belt, western Tasmania and a broad area covering the greater southeast of Queensland and eastern New South Wales.