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 4 April 2014 by the National Climate Centre

Rainfall deficiencies remain in Queensland and New South Wales, easing slightly in the inland east

March rainfall was generally below average over Western Australia, South Australia, the Top End and inland northern Queensland east of Mount Isa. Rainfall was above average for New South Wales and adjacent parts of neighbouring states, extending across southeast Queensland as far north as the Capricornia District. This rainfall has had mixed impacts; rainfall deficiencies have eased in parts of the affected area covering Queensland’s Warrego and Maranoa, extending into the Central Highlands and adjacent parts of northern New South Wales, while increasing farther inland over northern and western Queensland and northeastern South Australia.

Short-term rainfall deficiencies have been exacerbated by below-average March rainfall in southwest Western Australia and western Victoria, although the warm months are typically the drier part of the year in these areas. March rainfall brought some welcome respite for northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland, despite a somewhat limited impact at longer timescales.



Rainfall deficiencies for the 18-month (October 2012 to March 2014) period have eased in the southeastern quarter of Queensland and eastern New South Wales, with slight easing also seen in Queensland's Channel Country, western New South Wales and northwestern Victoria. Conversely, deficiencies have increased in northeastern South Australia, inland northern Queensland and a small area of the southeast Northern Territory, as well as on the coast of Western Australia near Shark Bay.

Serious to severe deficiencies (lowest 10% to 5% of records) remain in central Queensland and in an area inland of the Great Dividing Range extending from southern Queensland into northern New South Wales as well as in areas around the Queensland–South Australian border (affecting the Northern Territory, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland), in eastern New South Wales, western Victoria and on the coast of Western Australia near Shark Bay.

Looking at rainfall over the period more generally, the vast majority of eastern Australia has received below- to very-much-below-average rainfall for the 18-month period ending March; rainfall has been well below average for a significant period over this area.



Rainfall deficiencies for the 24-month (April 2012 to March 2014) period have eased over New South Wales and southern Queensland, corresponding to areas which received above-average March rainfall. Elsewhere, rainfall deficiencies in affected areas have increased in severity. Serious to severe deficiencies (lowest 10% to 5% of records) persist in an area extending from inland southern Queensland into northern New South Wales, areas of southern New South Wales, northwestern and north-central Victoria, areas in inland northern and western Queensland, the southeast of the Northern Territory, northeast and central South Australia, the Nullarbor Plain and on the west coast of Western Australia, particularly between Carnarvon and Geraldton.

The decile map for the 24-months ending March shows rainfall has been below average for much of eastern Australia at the longer timescale, indicating persistence of below-average rainfall over a protracted period.



Soil moisture maps were unavailable at the time of this release.

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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

Further information

Media
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Enquiries

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To subscribe to email alerts, contact helpdesk.climate@bom.gov.au and include 'Drought Statements' in the subject line.

Definitions

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 Update

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.

Seasonal rainfall outlooks

Current map, small viewSeasonal rainfall outlooks outline likely conditions over three-month periods.
Regional outlooks: northern Australia, south-eastern Australia, Western Australia.
Previous outlooks: Archive

Seasonal temperature outlooks

Current map, small viewSeasonal temperature outlooks outline likely conditions over three-month periods.
Regional outlooks: northern Australia, south-eastern Australia, Western Australia.
Previous outlooks: Archive

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.

Drought declarations and assistance

Formal drought declarations are handled by State or Federal Government.
Further details

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'