Drought

November rainfall eases deficiencies in South Australia and New South Wales

Rainfall for November was above to very much above average for nearly all of the Northern Territory and South Australia, parts of Western Australia in the Kimberley, the southeast, and in parts of the Pilbara and Gascoyne and western interior, parts of the Gulf Country and northwestern Queensland, western Victoria and parts of southwestern and southeastern New South Wales. Monthly totals were in the highest 10% of historical observations (decile 1) for November in large parts of South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Monthly rainfall totals were below average for the eastern half of southern Victoria, from Melbourne to Cann River in Gippsland, nearly all of Tasmania, the southwest of Western Australia and part of the Gascoyne, and scattered pockets of eastern Australia, mostly close to the coast.

A long-lived blocking high over the Tasman Sea during much of November brought persistently northerly airflow across most of Victoria and Tasmania, with associated warm temperatures and low rainfall, continuing rainfall deficiencies in both States. A Special Climate Statement was issued discussing the record-breaking warmth. Following this warm spell, a heavy rainfall event across the southeast saw large areas of northern Victoria and southern New South Wales received two to three times the average December rainfall total during the first four days of the month. See also comparison of percentage of mean rainfall over southeastern Australia for the 6-month period ending November 2017, before and after early December rainfall.

November rainfall has eased deficiencies across parts of the coastline at the top of the Great Australian Bight, across the top of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, and parts of southern New South Wales at both the 6- and 9-month timescales. Rainfall during the first days of December has further alleviated deficiencies in these areas, while serious to severe deficiencies remain little changed in eastern Victoria, eastern Tasmania, and on the western to northwestern coast of Western Australia.

6-month rainfall deficiencies

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are present in areas along the coast of Western Australia in the Gascoyne and Pilbara, in areas of coastal South Australia around Ceduna and Port Augusta, across areas between western New South Wales and the Central Tablelands and western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, in much of eastern Victoria, and along the east coast of Tasmania.

Deficiencies have been cleared from areas of the southern coast between the Eucla in Western Australia and Ceduna in South Australia, across parts of South Australia's northern agricultural districts, and across parts of southern New South Wales.

9-month rainfall deficiencies

Rainfall deficiencies persist along the west coast of Western Australia between about Exmouth and Perth, with areas of deficiencies having emerged in the southwest compared to the previous 8-month period. Deficiencies are also in place in an area around Ceduna in coastal South Australia, across most of Gippsland in Victoria, and across the east coast of Tasmania. Scattered small pockets of western New South Wales and western to central Queensland have also observed serious rainfall deficiencies at the 9-month timescale.

Rainfall during the past month cleared deficiencies in areas of coastal South Australia west of Ceduna. Conversely, deficiencies have increased in severity in East Gippsland and tight 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 November increased across parts of southeastern Australia, and across much of the central and northern Northern Territory, compared to values for October.

Soil moisture was above average for Central Australia, much of Queensland, the Northern Territory, and much of Western Australia between the interior and the Kimberley.

Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for the western Pilbara in Western Australia, large areas along the southern coast of Western Australia and South Australia, the eastern half of Victoria, extending across most of eastern New South Wales, and across nearly all of Tasmania.

  • November rainfall above to very much above average across the Northern Territory, South Australia, western Victoria, parts of Western Australia, particularly in the Kimberley, Gascoyne and adjacent inland, and parts of northwestern Queensland
  • Rainfall during November below average for nearly all of Tasmania and eastern Victoria
  • Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies remain at the 6-month timescale in the Gascoyne and Pilbara in Western Australia, parts of South Australia's northern agricultural districts, areas of New South Wales between the west and eastern tablelands, in eastern Victoria, and east coast Tasmania
  • Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are evident at the 9-month timescale near the west coast of Western Australia, near Ceduna on the South Australian coast, in east coast Tasmania, eastern Victoria, and small areas in central to western Queensland and western New South Wales
  • Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for November in the Pilbara in Western Australia and across large areas of southern Australia, particularly for eastern Victoria and all of Tasmania

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.

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: