Rainfall deficiencies ease in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales
March rainfall was above to very much above average across the east of Australia, extending across eastern Queensland from around Townsville southwards and into central and eastern New South Wales. Severe tropical cyclone Debbie was a major contributor to above average monthly rainfall in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Numerous monthly and daily rainfall records were set in Queensland and New South Wales, with significant flooding ensuing.
Rainfall was also above average for southwestern Victoria and far southeastern South Australia, and across large parts of Western Australia.
Rainfall was below average for most of Tasmania, far western New South Wales, most of South Australia, parts of southwestern and western Queensland, and the south of the Northern Territory.
5-month rainfall deficiencies
Heavy rainfall in the past month has cleared nearly all areas of short-term serious to severe rainfall deficiencies across southern Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Isolated pockets of serious rainfall deficiencies persist in southern inland Queensland, and also in East Gippsland in Victoria.
Scattered areas of decile 2 (very much below average) rainfall for the period exist in parts of central to southern Queensland, inland northeastern New South Wales, and eastern Victoria. Rainfall in these areas will continue to be closely monitored for further developments.
Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) increased across the east of Queensland and New South Wales for March compared to February, but generally decreased across the rest of Australia.
Soil moisture for March was below average for Gippsland in Victoria, western New South Wales and the Riverina district, large areas of Queensland south of the Cape York Peninsula, and an area of Central Australia south of Alice Springs.
Soil moisture for the month was above average for Western Australia, the west of the Northern Territory and south of the Top End, an area of southwest South Australia, and parts of the Gulf Country and Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.
- March rainfall above to very much above average for much of eastern Queensland, central to eastern New South Wales, southwest Victoria and southeastern South Australia, and large parts of Western Australia
- Severe tropical cyclone Debbie brought torrential rainfall to Queensland and northern New South Wales, resulting in flooding
- Short-term rainfall deficiencies largely cleared from southern Queensland and northern New South Wales
- Soil moisture below average across much of Queensland, western and southern New South Wales, and Gippsland in Victoria
Product code: IDCKGD0AR0
Soil moisture details are reported when there are periods of significant rainfall deficits.
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.
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
- Average rainfall: How much rain do you expect?
- Rainfall variability: How consistent is rainfall in your area?
- Rainfall history: Check tables, graphs and data from your local weather station.
- Rainfall trends: Has your rainfall changed?
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.
For the week to 25 April 2017, rainfall was recorded in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, western and southern New South Wales, far eastern and northern Queensland, and in the northern Top End and southwest corner of the Northern Territory.
At the start of the week, a broad surface trough combined with an upper-level trough and moved slowly east, producing a cloudband extending from the Kimberly and interior of Western Australia, to southern parts of Northern Territory and South Australia. Thunderstorms and showers with moderate falls gradually extended from the Kimberley and interior of Western Australia, to the southwest of the Northern Territory and South Australia.
The surface and upper-level troughs, and associated cloudband moved across the southeast of Australia, with a weak low developing in western Victoria, producing moderate to heavy falls in central and southeastern South Australia, southern New South Wales, western and central Victoria, and northern Tasmania. Another surface trough near the south coast of Western Australia produced isolated heavy rainfall in the area.
During the middle of the week, a firm ridge extended over eastern Queensland, and a developing tropical low moved westwards through the Torres Strait into the Arafura Sea, enhancing shower and thunderstorm activity in parts of northern Australia. Heavy falls were reported about the far north of the Cape York Peninsula and in parts of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
In the latter part of the week, a surface trough and a cold front tracked eastwards through southeast Australia generating widespread moderate rainfall totals across much of central and eastern South Australia, western New South Wales, large parts of Victoria and northern Tasmania. A cloudband in the northwest of Australia and a low near the Pilbara coast produced some moderate rainfall in the Pilbara and Gascoyne in Western Australia.
Rainfall totals exceeding 100 mm were recorded in the northwest agricultural and Flinders districts in South Australia, the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, and parts of the northeast tropical coast district in Queensland. The highest weekly rainfall total was 307 mm at Horn Island in far northern Queensland.
Rainfall totals between 50 mm and 100 mm were recorded in the northern Gascoyne, interior, and south coast of Western Australia; in Arnhem Land and parts of the southwest of the Northern Territory; and the agricultural districts, the Flinders, Mid North and southeastern districts of South Australia. Similar totals were recorded in northern, central and southwestern Victoria, southwestern New South Wales, northern Tasmania, Queensland’s north tropical coast and in the far north of the Cape York Peninsula.
Rainfall totals between 10 mm and 50 mm were recorded in the western Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne, central interior and South West Land Division of Western Australia; in the northern Top End and southwest of the Northern Territory; much of South Australia except in the northeast, and Eyre Peninsulas; most of Victoria except East Gippsland, and northern Tasmania. Similar totals were recorded in western and southern New South Wales, patches of eastern New South Wales and in pockets of eastern Queensland.
Little or no rainfall was recorded in western, southeastern and northeastern Western Australia; most of the Northern Territory away from the far northern Top End and southwest corner; western and northeastern South Australia; East Gippsland in Victoria; southern Tasmania; the northeastern quarter of New South Wales; and Queensland, away from the far north and east coast.
Impact of recent rainfall on deficits
The Drought Statement, issued on 5 April 2017, discusses rainfall deficits over Australia for the 5-month (November 2016–March 2017) period. The rainfall deficit map is available for this period as well as for standard periods.
The map below shows the percentage of mean rainfall that has been received for the rainfall deficit period for the 5-month period ending 25 April 2017.
Rainfall for the period 1 November 2016 to 25 April 2017
Rainfall deficiencies for the 5-month period (November 2016–March 2017) eased substantially in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, due to heavy rainfall during March clearing most of the short-term serious to severe rainfall deficiencies.
Rainfall across affected areas of southern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales is above average for the period. Very small and isolated pockets of southern Queensland and East Gippsland in Victoria have reported 80% of the average.
Product code: IDCKGRWAR0