Drought

Rainfall deficiencies increase for parts of New South Wales and greater southeastern Queensland

June rainfall was below average across most of New South Wales, extending into much of southern Queensland, and adjacent border regions of South Australia and Victoria. Rainfall was very much below average over much of northern inland New South Wales and parts of adjacent States. For the Murray-Darling Basin as a whole, June rainfall was the tenth-lowest on record. Rainfall for the month was also below average for southern and eastern Tasmania, the western half of South Australia, much of eastern and south coast Western Australia, and large parts of the Northern Territory.

Rainfall deficiencies across much of New South Wales and the greater southeast of Queensland have increased in extent and severity at each of the 6-, 9- and 15-month timescales.

Above average rainfall during June for parts of Western Australia's South West Land Division and much of western Victoria have decreased rainfall deficiencies in those areas.

For the year to date (January–June), rainfall has been below to very much below average over much of Australia, as is reflected in the 6-month rainfall deficiencies.

Whilst the Bureau of Meteorology's monthly Drought Statement focuses on rainfall deficiencies for periods up to two years duration, we monitor rainfall deficiencies and impacts on water resources on longer timescales such as the current severe multi-year drought affecting large parts of eastern Australia. We have special climate statements on this long-term drought and recently the drought and its impact on water resources where we explore this current drought more deeply, we will update these statements as the situation continues.

There has been a significant decline in autumn and winter rainfall observed over southeast and southwest Australia in recent decades. The drying trend is particularly strong for May–July over southwest Western Australia since 1970, and for April–October over the southeast of the continent since 1999. Many of the areas which are affected by rainfall deficiencies as discussed in this Drought Statement are also affected by these clear declining long-term rainfall trends. For large areas of both southeastern and southwestern Australia, rainfall for the past 20 years (July 1999 to June 2019) has been in the lowest 10% of historical records, and in some areas has been record low.

The role of climate change in rainfall reduction over southern Australia is further discussed in State of the Climate 2018.

The Climate Outlook for July to September indicates a drier than average three months is likely for large parts of the country, including most of the eastern mainland and most of the South West Land Division in Western Australia, where the chance of exceeding median rainfall is less than 40%.

6-month rainfall deficiencies

Below average rainfall for June has increased rainfall deficiencies for the year to date in northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland, and along the western border of New South Wales. Rainfall deficiencies have also increased across large parts of South Australia, and in southeastern Western Australia.

Rainfall for June was above average for a large area in the west of Western Australia, spanning the northern to central South West Land Division, western Gascoyne, and parts of the southern Goldfields District. This has decreased rainfall deficiencies over much of the west and north of the South West Land Division, although serious to severe deficiencies persist in the Southeast Coastal District and in pockets along the west coast. Rainfall deficiencies have decreased slightly in parts of western and southern Victoria.

For the 6-month period from January to June 2019, rainfall deficiencies persist or have increased in northeastern New South Wales and the greater southeast of Queensland. Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies extend across most of the North West Slopes, Northern Tablelands and New South Wales north coast. In southeast Queensland, serious to severe rainfall deficiencies extend into the eastern Maranoa and Capricornia Districts.

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are also evident in large parts of Western Australia, including pockets of the coastal Kimberley, the Interior District and far southeast, the Southeast Coastal District, some pockets of the west coast, and an area of the Pilbara extending inland from the coast to the west of Karratha. There are serious to severe rainfall deficiencies across much of the Northern Territory away from the north and the east; much of South Australia's western to central pastoral areas, extending south of Lake Eyre / Kati Thanda and along the western border of New South Wales into northwestern Victoria, and along part of Victoria's western border. Smaller pockets of serious to severe rainfall deficiencies also exist in southern agricultural regions of South Australia, the Central District and West and South Gippsland in Victoria, and across eastern Tasmania.

9-month rainfall deficiencies

Above average June rainfall across parts of Western Australia has decreased rainfall deficiencies for the period starting in October 2018 along the west coast, while a drier than average month in much of eastern Australia has increased deficiencies in northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland.

For the 9-month period, serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are evident in large parts of the northern half of Western Australia, particularly the northern Kimberley and northern Interior District, and persist along parts of the west coast and in an area of the South Coast and Southeast Coastal districts. Deficiencies are also in place across a very large area of the central Northern Territory and parts of the west coast of the Top End.

Northern Australia receives the bulk of its rainfall over the northern wet season, from October to April, so rainfall deficiencies during this period are particularly significant, and will not usually be removed before the following wet season. It is likely the rainfall deficiencies over the north of Western Australia and the Northern Territory will persist until next spring.

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies were also present across much of northeast of New South Wales away from the coast; adjacent southern border regions of Queensland from the southern Maranoa to the eastern Darling Downs, much of the southern Central Highlands, and parts of the Capricornia and Wide Bay coasts in Queensland; areas of central to eastern South Australia, including pockets of some agricultural areas; much of West and South Gippsland in Victoria, and pockets of the southwest coast and far northwestern Mallee; and across the south of Tasmania.

15-month rainfall deficiencies

June rainfall has reduced deficiencies for the period starting in April 2018 along the west coast of Western Australia, while in the east below average rainfall for the month has generally seen an increase in rainfall deficiencies across New South Wales, adjacent northern border regions of Victoria, and parts of southern Queensland.

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are in place for the 15-month period from April 2018 to June 2019 across most of the northeastern quarter of Western Australia, except parts of the inland Kimberley, extending into the far northeastern Gascoyne and western Pilbara, and are also present in parts of the western Pilbara, along parts of the west coast, and across much of the southwest and south coast regions. Rainfall deficiencies also affect most of the Northern Territory away from the Top End and eastern border regions; most of central and eastern South Australia, away from the far northeast and far southeast; most of southern and southeastern Queensland, extending across much of the Central Highlands and Capricornia districts; most of New South Wales except parts of the central west, and parts of the central and southeast coast; northwestern Victoria and along the Murray in the Northern Country District, and also parts of the Northeast, Central, and West and South Gippsland districts; and in parts of Tasmania's east coast.

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Soil moisture

June saw a decrease in soil moisture across much of Australia, particularly in northern and western South Australia, much of New South Wales, southern and southeastern Queensland, the north of both the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and the south of Western Australia. Average to above average rainfall for June resulted in an increase in relative lower-layer soil moisture (from 10 to 100 cm deep) across western Victoria.

Soil moisture for June was below average for most of central to eastern New South Wales and across the greater southeast of Queensland, extending into the Capricornia District; along the western border of New South Wales, extending across northeastern South Australia; across most of the north of Western Australia, much of the north of north of the Northern Territory except the coastal Top End, and parts of Queensland's Gulf Country; across the southern coast and adjacent hinterland in southern Western Australia, extending into the Goldfields District and southwest South Australia; and for much of eastern Tasmania.

Lower-layer soil moisture was above average for much of Queensland's Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders District, and pockets of the Peninsula coast; pockets of the Top End coast and Alice Springs District in the Northern Territory; pockets of Western Australia's southern Interior District, coastal South Australia; and an area of central western Victoria.

The relatively dry soils seen during June extends the run of dry months this year. Average soil moisture for soil moisture for January–June 2019 was very much below average over very large areas of Australia. Average soil moisture for the year to date has been above average in Queensland's central to far northern east coast, a large area of central to western Queensland, the northeastern tip of the Top End, and an area of Western Australia's southern Interior District.

  • June rainfall below average for very large areas, including most of New South Wales, inland southern Queensland, eastern and south coast Western Australia, and western South Australia
  • Rainfall above average for parts of the west of Western Australia, inland northern Queensland, and pockets of western Victoria
  • Following above average June rainfall, deficiencies have decreased across parts of the west of Western Australia
  • Rainfall deficiencies have generally increased across New South Wales and greater southeastern Queensland at each of the monitored timescales
  • Lower-level soil moisture below average for June across large parts of Western Australia, the north of the Northern Territory, eastern New South Wales and southeast Queensland, northeastern South Australia and far western New South Wales, and eastern Tasmania
  • Warmer than average June across much of southeastern Australia continues to add to moisture stress

Product code: IDCKGD0AR0

A very dry month for the southeastern mainland increases rainfall deficiencies
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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:

Further information