Friday 30 June 2017

Australia looking at record dry after last years record June rain

A winter drought in New Zealand is not so obvious as it is in Australia. However, I have noted that here where I live n Wellington we have never really recovered from previous droughts.

This is confirmed by the fact that people in Ohariu Valley, near Wellington are having to get in water trucks in early-winter. I have also received a comment that the water table is worryingly low in Nelson.

You’d be lucky to find any official conformation of this – but anecdote in this is invaluable.

Wet to dry in 12 months: After record June rain last year, worried farmers look to skies for more

29 June, 2017

A year ago, Australia experienced its second-wettest June on record, but 12 months on, farmers in parts of inland New South Wales are worried they will not have enough.

Mixed farmer Andrew Holmes, from Canowindra in the state's central-west, said this time last year the rain deluge had begun that eventually saw the Belubula River flood 15 times in three months.

But compared to the more than 100 millimetres of rain he received last June, this year he has had less than 5mm, and is now looking upwards rather than downwards.

"Last year we were looking down making sure we didn't get bogged or washed away," he said.

"This year we're just looking at the sky and watching the weather forecasts, hoping for a bit of rain really in the next 10 days or so."

Two images side by side of a creek, one full of water, the other mostly emptyPHOTO: A comparison of Boree Creek, west of Orange, in June 2016 and June 2017. (ABC 
Central West: Melanie Pearce)

More rainfall urgently needed

Last year, June rainfall in NSW was very much above average, except for the far west and Hunter Valley.
Paddocks with green crops in themPHOTO: Wheat and canola trials at Department of Primary Industries, Tamworth Agricultural Institute are among the winter crops that urgently need rain. (Supplied: NSW DPI)

Official figures from the Bureau of Meteorology included 219mm for the Orange Agricultural Institute, which was its highest-ever June rainfall in more than 50 years of weather records for the site.

However, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries said falls across the state for this month were generally 60 to 80 per cent lower than normal.

"A lot of it was very variable, very stormy, patchy rainfall, and unfortunately there are areas that missed out, primarily areas of the north-west and the central and northern central-west," seasonal conditions coordinator Ian McGowen said.
He said more rainfall was urgently needed across most areas of the state to help primary producers with winter production.

Two sheetsPHOTO: Records of rain in Orange, NSW, showing the huge totals of 2016 compared to the much drier 2017.(ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce)

A lot of nervous growers

In the state's north-west, some farms have not sown crops because of insufficient soil moisture and others, particularly the later-sown ones, are struggling.

Some livestock producers are grazing stock on crops or waiting to do so, and Parkes-based stock and station agent Geoff Rice said people were starting to get nervous.
"Definitely a few nerves. If we don't see a fairly decent rainfall event in the near future things will definitely change," he said.
DPI beef cattle officer based in Glen Innes, Todd Andrews, said the situation in the New England and north-west was a little less dire than in other parts of inland NSW, but producers were hoping for up to 50mm of rain soon to secure crops and pastures for spring.

No wet sheep this year

Tom Matthews, who farms near Grenfell in the central-west, said at this stage he was not concerned and was enjoying the dry days after difficulties shearing this time last year.
"No dramas with wet sheep, it's fantastic. [We had] 163mm last year compared to five this year, so it's a big difference," Mr Matthews said.
Another central-west business operator, Ian Rogan, who runs a commercial nursery at Millthorpe near Orange, has received about 27 millimetres in May-June this year compared to 261mm for the same period in 2016.
"It was much, much wetter, I'd probably say even too wet in June last year, but this year it's just been extremely dry," he said.

This year Mr Rogan is having to water his 10,000 potted plants every few days, and he said he was looking for some rain to fall to encourage gardeners to get out into their gardens.

For an inland NSW mine, the wet to dry turnaround between last winter and this one has its pros and cons.

Alkane Resources director Ian Chalmers said he did not think he had seen it quite this dry for a long time at the Tomingley mine, and if there was not enough rainfall there could be concerns about water supply and dust control.

However, he said he did not want the mine to get "washed away" like it did in the last half of last year, when May and June rains led to July flooding.

"I guess we're like any primary industry, it's nice to have something in between," Mr Chalmers said.

A dry July?

As farmers and others look to the skies, what are they likely to hold?
The Bureau of Meteorology's rainfall outlook for June to August indicates drier than normal conditions are likely across NSW.

Meteorologist and lecturer with Newcastle University, Martin Babakhan, said in the first few days of July there could be the chance of light rain in the state's inland, and then from the 5th until the end of the month, none at all.

He said the Indian Ocean played the most important role in winter and spring, and it was in a "positive state" now, meaning there was going to be below average rainfall in those seasons for central and south-east Australia and NSW.
"The winter is not a wet season for Australia. So still conditions are going to be dry at this stage," Mr Babakhan said.

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