Sta­tion own­ers in grip of dry ‘wet’

Pilbara News - - News - ■ Re­becca Parish

Less than 2mm of rain hit the gauges in Port Hed­land from Septem­ber to Fe­bru­ary, with north­ern parts of WA af­fected by one of the strong­est El Nino events recorded in the past cen­tury.

Just 0.6mm was recorded last month, the high­est rain­fall through­out the six-month pe­riod, with no rain recorded in the town’s gauge at the Port Hed­land Air­port in Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber.

It’s a stark com­par­i­son to a town that recorded more than 290mm dur­ing the same pe­riod five years ago, 251mm in 2012-13 and more than 260mm from show­ers the year af­ter that.

The lack of rain­fall is the worst Indee Sta­tion owner Colin Bri­erly says he had ex­pe­ri­enced in 50 years, with his sta­tion about 60km from Hed­land record­ing less than an inch of rain since the be­gin­ning of the year.

Mr Bri­erly — who bought the sta­tion 53 years ago when in his 20s — said the im­pact would likely see him take calves from their moth­ers for health rea­sons this year to be raised by sta­tion work­ers ahead of the be­gin­ning of muster in June.

“I think it’s our dri­est year in 50-odd years,” he said. “It’s a very bad year. “Some of our wa­ter lev­els are drop­ping in our wells; hope­fully it doesn’t get too bad or we’ll prob­a­bly have to drill more holes.”

Yar­rie Sta­tion owner Annabelle Cop­pin said she had also ex­pe­ri­enced lit­tle rain­fall since De­cem­ber.

“If you don’t have rain, you’re in a dry sea­son,” she said.

“You have to to­tally change your plans and the lo­gis­tics of the sea­son so you can sur­vive.

“The No. 1 pri­or­ity is an­i­mal wel­fare — it’s about try­ing to do your best to avoid grow­ing mor­tal­ity rates.

“Ba­si­cally, with dry sea­sons, there’s noth­ing good about them.”

Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy spokesman Glenn Cook said what was be­ing seen this year dif­fered dra­mat­i­cally from the long-term trend and was likely to be part of nat­u­ral cli­mate vari­abil­ity, rather than any sig­nif­i­cant change to the longterm trend.

“The bureau’s sea­sonal out­look sug­gests that the dry con­di­tions are most likely to con­tinue into March across north­ern WA, in­clud­ing the Pil­bara,” he said.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Pil­bara though, with New­man Aerodome record­ing 42mm for the month up un­til the morn­ing of Jan­uary 25, when the rain gauge re­ported 80.4mm of rain be­fore it stopped op­er­at­ing at 8am, pos­si­bly due to thun­der­storms.

Last year the aero­drome recorded 6.6 mm of rain in Jan­uary, de­spite record­ing a mas­sive 220.2mm in Jan­uary the year be­fore.

The El Nino, which de­vel­oped some time in win­ter last year, is af­fect­ing the ma­jor­ity of north­ern Aus­tralia, lead­ing to an al­most non-ex­is­tent mon­soon, and below av­er­age trop­i­cal cy­clone ac­tiv­ity.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

The Pil­bara coast hasn’t seen rain like this all wet sea­son.

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