Short-term rainfall deficiencies increase in southeastern Australia

Rainfall for April was below to very much below average across Victoria, New South Wales, eastern South Australia, most of Tasmania, the South West Land Division and south coast in Western Australia, and for large areas of southeastern, far northern, and central inland Queensland. Rainfall was the lowest on record for the month at a number of stations in Victoria, and New South Wales. For southern Australia as a whole, rainfall was the third-lowest on record for April.

The first quarter of 2018 has been marked by an extended period of particularly dry weather for much of mainland southeastern Australia. January to April was the seventh-driest such period for southeastern Australia as a whole. The spatial extent and severity of rainfall deficiencies affecting the southeast has increased compared to the preceding 3-month period, and we are now tracking the four-month period starting in January 2018 (see below). We will also continue to monitor deficiencies at a range of short timescales, as the southern wet season progresses (the southern wet season spans April to November).

Compared to the previous Drought Statement, deficiencies at longer timescales have increased in inland Queensland, the New South Wales central coast and inland eastern areas, Gippsland in Victoria, eastern Tasmania, and along the west coast of Western Australia.

4-month rainfall deficiencies

A particularly dry April across western and southern New South Wales, and the Central District and Gippsland in Victoria has increased rainfall deficiencies across the mainland southeast.

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are in place across most of Victoria except the northeast, most of southeastern and agricultural South Australia south and east of Port Augusta, and large areas of New South Wales in west, western Riverina, North West Slopes and Plains, and inland northeast. Scattered pockets of serious or severe deficiencies extend into southwestern Queensland, about Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre in South Australia, and about Shark Bay on the west coast of Western Australia.

13-month rainfall deficiencies

Compared to the 12-month period discussed in the previous Drought Statement, rainfall deficiencies have increased in all affected States.

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies remain across a large area of eastern to central New South Wales extending along the coast from around Batemans Bay to around New Castle and reaching well inland into the Tablelands and Central West Slopes and Plains; large areas of central and southern to southwestern Queensland; and scattered areas of northern and western New South Wales, western Queensland, and pastoral South Australia between Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre and the coast about Ceduna and Gulf St Vincent.

Serious or severe deficiencies were also present across much of Gippsland in eastern Victoria, along the east coast of Tasmania, and in a broad strip along the west coast of Western Australia between about Karratha and the northern South West Land Division, as well as small areas in the Southwest District.


Soil moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) for April decreased over most of Australia. Soil moisture increased over parts of northern inland Queensland.

Lower-layer soil moisture was above average across much of northern and western Queensland, adjacent parts of the Northern Territory, parts of eastern Western Australia, and parts of Tasmania.

Soil moisture was below average for most of most of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, much of the west of Western Australia, and large parts of the Northern Territory away from the southeast.

  • April rainfall was below average for large areas of southern Australia
  • Total rainfall for Australia was the the eighth-lowest on record for April
  • Exceptionally warm weather during April exacerbated the effect of low rainfall
  • The very dry start to the year for the mainland southeast has continued, with deficiencies evident at the 4-month timescale
  • Rainfall deficiencies have increased slightly in both the east and west of the country at the 13-month timescale
  • Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for April across eastern South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria

Product code: IDCKGD0AR0

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.



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: