Drought


Soil moisture data is from the Bureau's Australian Water Resources Assessment Landscape (AWRA-L) model, developed through the Water Information Research and Development Alliance between the Bureau and CSIRO.
See: Australian Landscape Water Balance.

This section displays rainfall maps. Current drought status is described in the previous section. For historical drought status statements, go to archive of drought statements

Also available at Maps – recent conditions

What is drought?

Drought is a prolonged, abnormally dry period when the amount of available water is insufficient to meet our normal use. Drought is not simply low rainfall; if it was, much of inland Australia would be in almost perpetual drought. Because people use water in so many different ways, there is no universal definition of drought. Meteorologists monitor the extent and severity of drought in terms of rainfall deficiencies. Agriculturalists rate the impact on primary industries, hydrologists compare ground water levels, and sociologists define it by social expectations and perceptions.

It is generally difficult to compare one drought to another, since each drought differs in the seasonality, location, spatial extent and duration of the associated rainfall deficiencies. Additionally, each drought is accompanied by varying temperatures and soil moisture deficits.

Rainfall averages, variability and trends

Median rainfall map, links to climate average maps An area experiences a rainfall deficit when the total rain received is less than the average rainfall for that period.

Definitions

Definitions

Lowest on record - lowest since at least 1900 when the data analysed begin.
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.

Australian Government drought assistance

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources information and contacts:

Rainfall deficiencies increase for the east after drier than average June

June rainfall was below average for the Kimberley and the southwestern quarter of Western Australia, most of the Northern Territory, and large parts of South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. Rainfall for the month was in the lowest 10% of historical observations (decile 1) for some parts of the eastern mainland, with the largest area of decile 1 rainfall observed in the North West Slopes and Plains and Northern Tablelands districts inland of the Great Dividing Range in northeastern New South Wales.

Above average June rainfall over the northwest of Western Australia has alleviated deficiencies in the coastal southeast of the Pilbara and northeastern Gascoyne. Elsewhere, deficiencies persist, and have increased over large parts of eastern Australia and agricultural South Australia at both the 6- and 15-month timescales.

A dry start to the southern wet season

The start of the southern wet season has been drier than average. The southern wet season spans April to November, and corresponds to the southern agricultural cropping season. The start to the wet season has been particularly dry for the south of Western Australia, with some areas along Western Australia's southern coast receiving record-low rainfall for April to June. Decile 1 rainfall for the period was observed across large areas of southern Western Australia, New South Wales and southern Queensland, and Central Australia. For Australia as a whole, April to June 2018 has been the fourth-driest such period since comparable records commence in 1900.

These shorter-period deficiencies have occurred against the background of existing rainfall deficiencies, including at 6- and 15-month timescales, and will continue to be closely monitored by the Bureau as the southern wet season progresses.

6-month rainfall deficiencies

Below average rainfall for June has increased rainfall deficiencies across much of New South Wales, far southwestern Queensland, northeastern South Australia, and agricultural districts of South Australia between the Fleurieu and Eyre peninsulas. Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies also persist in southeastern South Australia and western to Northern Country Victoria, parts of Gippsland in Victoria, an area of the Central Highlands and Coalfields District in Queensland, and in Western Australia's South Coastal District and a small area north of Kalbarri on the west coast.

The year so far has been drier than average for the southeastern quarter of the mainland; for this region January to June 2018 has been the fourth-driest such period since comparable records commence in 1900.

15-month rainfall deficiencies

Above average June rainfall over the northwest of Western Australia has alleviated deficiencies in the coastal southeast of the Pilbara and northeastern Gascoyne, compared to the previous Drought Statement. Conversely, deficiencies have increased over large parts of eastern Australia and agricultural South Australia.

For the 15 months from April 2017 to June 2018, serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are in place across large areas of New South Wales (away from the southern border and northeastern coast); large areas of southern to central Queensland and small areas of western Queensland; across much of Gippsland in eastern Victoria; parts of South Australia about Lake Eyre / Kati Thanda, from Ceduna across the northern Eyre and York peninsulas, to parts of the Flinders Ranges and Murraylands District, and also Kangaroo Island. Deficiencies are also present along the western and southern coast of Western Australia from Shark Bay to around Esperance and scattered areas further inland, and along the east coast of Tasmania.

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Soil moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) for June decreased over eastern Australia, and increased over parts of northwest Western Australia following above average rainfall for June.

Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for the Kimberley and southern Western Australia away from the west coast, most of South Australia and the Northern Territory, New South Wales and eastern Victoria, southern and eastern Queensland south of a line between Birdsville and Townsville, and along the coastal fringe of eastern Cape York Peninsula.

  • June rainfall was below average for most of Australia, and very much below average for parts of the east coast
  • The start of the southern wet season has been drier than average
  • Rainfall deficiencies persist in both the east and west of the country, increasing in the east at the 6- and 15-month timescales, and along the west coast at the 15-month timescale
  • Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for June across most of New South Wales, the southern half of Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the Kimberley and the south of Western Australia

Product code: IDCKGD0AR0