Drought

A rather wet December eases deficiencies in the southeast

Rainfall for December was below to very much below average for most of the Northern Territory and most of Queensland, and for most of the Goldfields region of Western Australia.

Monthly rainfall totals were above average along the west coast of Western Australia and along the path of tropical cyclone Hilda, extending from the western Kimberley through the northeastern side of the Interior District to about Wiluna, from southeast Western Australia through western and most of southern South Australia, southern New South Wales, the eastern half and northern border regions of Victoria, and eastern Tasmania

A heavy rainfall event in the first four days of December saw large areas of northern Victoria and southern New South Wales receive two to three times the average total December rainfall, with many sites in Victoria, southern New South Wales, and northern Tasmania observing their wettest December day on record. Storms also brought short-lived heavy rainfall to central and eastern Victoria and southeastern New South Wales at other times during the month.

December rainfall has eased deficiencies across the southeast of Australia at both the 7- and 10-month timescales, particularly in inland New South Wales and in Gippsland in Victoria.

7-month rainfall deficiencies

Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies persist in areas of the western to central Pilbara in Western Australia. Deficiencies are also present at a number of scattered locations across the south of Western Australia and near Port Augusta in South Australia, far eastern Victoria, and central to western Queensland. Larger pockets of deficiencies are present in central eastern New South Wales roughly between Tamworth and the Illawarra, and along the east coast of Tasmania.

Compared to the 6-month period ending November, deficiencies have eased in affected areas of southeastern Australia and South Australia.

10-month rainfall deficiencies

Rainfall deficiencies persist along the west coast of Western Australia between about Exmouth and just north of Perth, extending inland through part of the South West Land Division and just into the southwest of the Goldfields District. Deficiencies also persist in an area around Ceduna in coastal South Australia, and scattered pockets of western and central Queensland. Compared to deficiencies for the 9-month period ending November, deficiencies have increased in affected areas of Queensland.

Rainfall during the past month has largely cleared deficiencies at this timescale in Gippsland in Victoria and along the east coast of Tasmania, although small pockets of serious deficiencies persist in both regions.

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Soil moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) for December increased across much of southern Australia, particularly the mainland southeast, while decreasing compared to values for November across Queensland and the coastal north of Australia.

Soil moisture was above average across much of southeastern Western Australia, most of South Australia, much of the Northern Territory, most of Victoria, most of New South Wales away from the central coast and northeast, and the coastal southeast of Queensland. Soil moisture was also above average along the west coast of Western Australia in the southern Pilbara and Gascoyne, and for scattered pockets of the Kimberley and Top End.

Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for areas of New South Wales between the central coast and Tablelands, reaching just into Queensland's Darling Downs, scattered small pockets of Queensland, along the west coast of Tasmania, and in areas of Western Australia mostly around the Goldfields District and inland Pilbara.

  • December rainfall above to very much above average for eastern and northern Victoria, southern New South Wales, eastern Tasmania, much of southern South Australia, along the west coast of Western Australia and from the western Kimberley to central Western Australia
  • Rainfall during December below average for much of the Northern Territory and Queensland
  • Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies remain at the 7-month timescale in the Pilbara in Western Australia, and small areas of eastern Australia, particularly in central eastern New South Wales and the east coast of Tasmania
  • Serious to severe rainfall deficiencies are evident at the 10-month timescale near the west coast of Western Australia, and areas of central and western Queensland
  • Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for December in most of Queensland, the eastern Top End, parts of northeastern New South Wales, and much of Tasmania

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: