Rainfall deficiencies ease in Queensland but persist in other areas

Rainfall for March was very much above average across much of northern and eastern Queensland into southern parts of the Northern Territory, as well as much of Tasmania. A small area centred on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales also saw above average rainfall. Below average rainfall was recorded across much of the rest of southern Australia, with some areas of very much below average, decile 1 (lowest 10%), rainfall.

Compared to the previous Drought Statement, deficiencies have decreased in inland and western Queensland, and slightly decreased on the east coast of New South Wales between the Manning and Illawarra districts.

Much of the rain in Queensland was from a low at the start of the month, or tropical cyclone Nora toward the end of the month. These both brought heavy rainfall and caused flooding, but did help to ease longer-term rainfall deficiencies. The Weekly Rainfall Update provides commentary on the effect of recent rainfall on rainfall deficiencies each week.

Recent rainfall in Queensland has also decreased rainfall deficiencies in western Queensland that were reported in the previous Drought Statement for the 9 months starting in June 2017. Deficiencies for that period now largely resemble those for the 12 months starting in April 2017. There has been some expansion of deficiencies in South Australia due to the dry start to the year across the region, and this will now be monitored closely at shorter timescales as the southern wet season begins.

It has been a very dry start to the year across much of mainland southeastern Australia. The January to March period was the driest first quarter of the year for New South Wales as a whole since 1986. Areas of rainfall deficiency are present at this 3-month period across large areas of northwestern Victoria into southeastern South Australia and some central and western parts of New South Wales, with some areas having less than 25 mm of rainfall over the last three months. Whilst these deficiencies are at a climatologically drier time of the year for this region, the Bureau of Meteorology will monitor the situation closely for any further deficiencies as the southern cropping season begins.

12-month rainfall deficiencies

Above average March rainfall decreased rainfall deficiencies in inland and western Queensland, and slightly decreased rainfall deficiencies on the east coast of New South Wales between the Manning and Illawarra districts.

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies remain across large areas of western to central and southern Queensland; in an area of eastern New South Wales affecting the Illawarra, Central Tablelands, Sydney, and Hunter regions; and in scattered pockets of northern and western New South Wales. Serious or severe deficiencies are also observed across the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and a small area in eastern Victoria. Rainfall deficiencies remain generally similar along the west coast of Western Australia, but continue to develop along the coast of the South West Land Division with serious rainfall deficiencies in small scattered areas across the southwest.


Soil moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) for March increased over much of Queensland and Tasmania, and decreased over inland New South Wales and northwestern Victoria.

Soil moisture was above average across much of Western Australia, excluding western coastal areas, areas of the east and north of the Northern Territory, and much of Queensland, especially in the north.

Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for most of most of New South Wales (especially central and western regions), Victoria (especially in the northwest and most of Gippsland), southeastern South Australia, and western coastal areas of Western Australia.

  • March rainfall was below average for large areas of southern mainland Australia
  • Rainfall was above average for large parts of Queensland (particularly in the north), and much of Tasmania
  • Rainfall deficiencies have decreased across western Queensland at the 12-month timescale, due to above average March rainfall
  • Deficiencies persist with little change along the west coast of Western Australia and in eastern New South Wales at the 12-month timescale
  • A very dry start to the year across much of mainland southeastern Australia
  • Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for March across much of southeastern 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.



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: