How Much Rain Would End ‘Aus­tralia’s Big Dry’?

Fiji Sun - - Aust/nz News - Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Many drought-stricken re­gions in Aus­tralia have fi­nally re­ceived much-needed rain in re­cent days.

Parts of New South Wales (NSW) a state de­clared to be 100 per cent in drought - have en­joyed their best rain­falls in two years, ac­cord­ing to me­te­o­rol­o­gists.

But while the drench­ing has pro­vided some relief, fore­cast­ers say it is nowhere near enough.

Farm­ing re­gions in NSW and Queens­land have been bone dry for months years in some cases - mean­ing there is no quick fix to end the drought. So what would it take?

First, it de­pends on how you de­fine drought

Aus­tralia’s Bu­reau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy (BOM) mea­sures it in terms of “rain­fall de­fi­ciency” - a pe­riod when pre­cip­i­ta­tion is deemed to be be­low av­er­age.

This year, rain­fall lev­els in NSW are among the low­est ever recorded over an ex­tended pe­riod. In some ar­eas, the state is the dri­est it has ever been. For the drought to end, some re­gions would need 200-300mm (8-12 inches) spread over at least three months, said BOM me­te­o­rol­o­gist Si­mon Grainger. That is more than the en­tire amount - 191mm - that the state has av­er­aged since Jan­uary.

So what has this month pro­duced? Mr Grainger says some ar­eas have had 2550mm, but oth­ers have missed out en­tirely.

“A sin­gle rain event is not it­self enough to break the drought. You need sus­tained rain­fall over months,” he told the BBC.

Un­for­tu­nately for farm­ers, the im­me­di­ate odds are not good. There is only a 25 per cent chance of suf­fi­cient “above av­er­age” rain­fall in the com­ing months, fore­cast­ers say.

It gets more com­pli­cated

Be­cause it is gov­ern­ments, not me­te­o­rol­o­gists, which of­fi­cially de­clare droughts. They con­sider other fac­tors, such as the health of the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

Many farm­ers say the cur­rent dry is the worst in liv­ing mem­ory. Lush pas­tures have turned to dust, and the soil is so parched that crops are strug­gling to grow.

Aus­tralian farm­ers af­fected by the drought.

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