Drought

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.

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Soil moisture

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 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: