Drought

Isolated areas of rainfall deficiencies persist in some areas following a wet winter

Rainfall during August 2016 was above to very much above average for most of the country, especially northern and central Australia and parts of New South Wales. Rainfall for the month was below average for eastern Tasmania, southeastern New South Wales, across Gippsland and pockets of the Western district in Victoria, areas of southern South Australia—particularly around the Eyre Peninsula—and parts of Western Australia's Interior district, although rainfall totals are generally low there during August.

Generally above average rainfall in August follows above average rainfall over most of the country in each month since May 2016, providing excellent relief from the multiyear rainfall deficiencies which had developed in the 2012 to 2015 period. However, some small areas continue to experience rainfall deficiencies in southern Victoria and around the northern and western coast. Overall, winter 2016 was the second-wettest for Australia. Most areas now have average to above average soil moisture, and the area of severe and serious rainfall deficiencies is greatly reduced. Higher than average rainfall often occurs following the breakdown of strong El Niño events, and has further been enhanced by the strong negative phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) which has persisted since late May.

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Soil moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) remains above average over most of the country.

Soil moisture for August was above average over much of Australia, and very much above average for central Queensland to the western Cape York Peninsula, much of New South Wales west of the Great Dividing Range, a large part of central to eastern Tasmania, and for the Pilbara in Western Australia and western areas of Central Australia.

Soil moisture for the month was below average for part of the South West Land Division in Western Australia and parts of the central Top End.

  • Rainfall deficiencies persist in isolated pockets of the northern and western coast and southern Victoria
  • Lower layer soil moisture for August was above average over most of Australia

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

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.