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A warm win­ter and low rain­falls have made drought a stark re­al­ity.

The cur­rent con­di­tions were the dri­est on record over a 14-month pe­riod for ar­eas across New South Wales.

It’s a sig­nif­i­cant drought. It com­pares to 1902, the year the Fed­er­a­tion drought peaked, the Boer War ended, and women got the right to vote in New South Wales and fed­eral elec­tions.

Dur­ing the Fed­er­a­tion drought, the Dar­ling River vir­tu­ally ran dry at Bourke in NSW, and the Aus­tralian wheat crop was all but lost. 1902 was a very bad year, but it came at the end of a pro­longed pe­riod of dry weather which spanned seven to eight years.

The sys­tems which usu­ally bring rain sim­ply haven’t come for New South Wales.

Dur­ing sum­mer there’s usu­ally a feed of trop­i­cal mois­ture from the trop­i­cal mon­soon com­ing south. But that didn’t hap­pen.

Frontal sys­tems that would nor­mally start af­fect­ing south­ern Aus- tralia more gen­er­ally dur­ing the win­ter mostly pass­ing south of the con­ti­nent af­fect­ing Tas­ma­nia and some of south­ern Vic­to­ria pocket.

Univer­sity of Mel­bourne Mandy Freud has been study­ing past Aus­tralian cli­mates us­ing corals, ice cores, tree rings and cave records to in­ves­ti­gate what the cli­mate was like up to 800 years ago.

Ms Freud said she had been look­ing at 30 and 50 year trends in warm and cool sea­son rain­fall, go­ing back 400 years.

The north is get­ting wet­ter dur­ing the warm sea­son get­ting all the rain and the south is get­ting drier dur­ing the win­ter sea­son when rain is ex­pected,” she said.

“The Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin has ex­pe­ri­enced an un­usual de­clin­ing trend in rain­fall for the past 30 years.”

There has a de­cline in rain­fall over al­most the past 50 years that has been linked with a change in the South­ern An­nu­lar Mode that de­scribes how far the west­erly wind belt can move up into the south of Aus­tralia.

Mur­ray River nearly dry in 1902

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