Station owners in grip of dry ‘wet’
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.
The Pilbara coast hasn’t seen rain like this all wet season.