Rainfall deficiencies

Australia is a large continent containing many different climate zones, from wet tropics in the north, arid and semi-arid conditions in the interior, and alpine climates in the south-east. Each climate zone is influenced by very different large-scale, predominant weather and climate patterns. For this reason, at any time different parts of the Australian continent can be affected by very different climate extremes. An example of this occurred in 2010, where southwest Western Australia experienced its driest year on record, in contrast to the rest of Australia, which received above-average to very-much-above-average rainfall.

Use our Drought Statement, rainfall maps and reports to watch for areas with significant long and short-term rainfall deficiencies.

Issued on 7 August 2014 by the National Climate Centre

Rainfall deficiencies increase in Queensland and northeastern New South Wales

July rainfall was below average for the mainland eastern States and an area of Western Australia stretching from the Pilbara coast into the southern interior. This has seen an increase in severity and extent of rainfall deficiencies in Queensland and New South Wales at a range of timescales. Meanwhile, rainfall was above average for eastern and southern Tasmania, the north of Western Australia and the south of the Northern Territory — easing deficiencies along the east coast of Tasmania and in the south of Western Australia for the shorter period.



Rainfall deficiencies for the 8 months from December 2013 to July 2014 have increased in extent over southeastern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales, while decreasing somewhat in southeastern Tasmania and decreasing significantly along the southern coast of Western Australia. Serious to severe deficiencies (lowest 10% to 5% of records) are present along the coast of southeastern Tasmania and in a large area of northeastern New South Wales and greater southeastern Queensland as well as isolated pockets in other parts of Queensland and a small area in the central Top End.

Much of northeastern New South Wales and greater southeastern Queensland also shows serious to severe deficiencies for the 12 months from August 2013 to July 2014. Rainfall averaged over this region (between Bundaberg and Coffs Harbour, and inland to Roma and St George) for the 12 months is the second-lowest on record, and the lowest since 1901–02.



Rainfall deficiencies for the 22-month (October 2012 to July 2014) period have increased in Western Australia in the region near Shark Bay, in inland western Victoria and across large areas of Queensland and parts of adjacent States.

Serious to severe deficiencies (lowest 10% to 5% of records) remain in an area spanning much of Queensland away from the eastern coast and also in smaller areas in adjacent parts of the Northern Territory and South Australia, and in an area inland of the Great Dividing Range extending from southern Queensland into northern New South Wales. The area of deficiencies on the coast of Western Australia near Shark Bay has again increased in size compared to the previous Drought Statement, as has the area of inland western Victoria experiencing deficiencies.

More generally, rainfall for the 22-month period ending July 2014 has continued to be below average over the eastern mainland and parts of Tasmania. Long-term deficiencies also remain for periods of two years or more starting from the end of the 2010–2012 La Niña.



Upper layer weekly soil moisture for the week ending 3 August was below average across much of eastern Australia, from northern Victoria to as far north as tropical Queensland, as well as in the south of the Northern Territory and large areas of Western Australia, extending from the coastal Pilbara and Gascoyne into the interior. Soil moisture was above average around the Gulf of Carpentaria and across the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, above to very much above average for the eastern Pilbara and Kimberley in Western Australia extending into the west of the Interior District and the Alice Springs District, and above average in coastal South Australia, western and Alpine Victoria and very much above average in western, northern and elevated parts of eastern Tasmania. This represents a drying for the mainland east, and an increase in soil moisture for the northwest and parts of Tasmania.

Lower layer weekly soil moisture for the week ending 3 August remains similar to last month, with a slight decrease across the southeast and increase across northern Australia. Lower layer soil moisture was below average across parts of inland and southeastern Queensland, northern and eastern New South Wales and along the west coast of Western Australia extending from the Pilbara to the Central Wheat Belt. Soil moisture is above average across the Cape York Peninsula, through the coastal Top End and central Northern Territory and much of the western half of Western Australia and along the south coast from the Nullarbor Plain through South Australia and into western Victoria with scattered patches of slightly above-average soil moisture through the mainland southeast.



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A mob of sheep raises dust north of Dubbo, New South Wales, during drought. Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Definitions

Further information

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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

These maps are also available from Maps - recent conditions

Weekly rainfall updates

Current map, small viewThe Weekly Rainfall Update describes rainfall over the previous week. It includes a map and a summary table of the highest weekly totals. A discussion of the impact of recent rains on rainfall deficiencies is also presented.

Rainfall and temperature outlooks

Current map, small viewRainfall and temperature outlooks outline likely conditions over three-month periods. Outlooks are available for single months, three months, and for any location in Australia. Formats include text summaries, maps, graphs and video.
Rainfall and temperature outlooks: Outlooks
Previous outlooks: Archive of outlooks Archive of outlook maps

Seasonal streamflow forecasts

Australian streamflows are among the most variable in the world. Seasonal streamflow forecasts extends water management decision making capability. Forecasts are issued monthly.

Climate statements archive

The archive includes previous monthly, seasonal and annual climate summaries for nation-wide, state/territory and capital city conditions.

Maps of recent conditions

CSIRO water balance maps

Small image of water balance mapCSIRO (AWAP) Water balance maps include maps of soil moisture and water fluxes contributing to changes in soil moisture (rainfall, transpiration, soil evaporation, surface runoff and deep drainage).

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.

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.

Acknowledgements

Front page photo, provided by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: 'A mob of sheep raises dust north of Dubbo, New South Wales, during drought'