EXPLAINER

Spring outlook is for warmer and drier conditions

Photo courtesy of Onward Murray Greys, a stud beef cattle operation on the Dorrigo plateau conducted by Sue Francis. Normally verdant Dorrigo has received less than half its normal rainfall this year.
Photo courtesy of Onward Murray Greys, a stud beef cattle operation on the Dorrigo plateau conducted by Sue Francis. Normally verdant Dorrigo has received less than half its normal rainfall this year.

NSW has been in drought since mid-2017 and the latest forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology indicate little relief in sight, with warmer and drier conditions to continue into spring.

Although the situation is much worse to our west, where whole towns are grappling with the question of what to do if they run out of drinking water, the Mid North Coast has also experienced significantly less rainfall than usual.

The rainfall anomalies report from the Bureau of Meteorology shows that our region as a whole has a shortfall of 600mm compared to the average year-to-date rainfall.

Dorrigo, which is usually blessed with two metres of rain a year, would normally have notched up 1451mm by August, but so far this year there's only been 632mm.

Sue Francis from Onward Murray Greys said while Dorrigo has largely escaped the horrors of the drought decimating rural communities, farmers and stock numbers to the west, receiving less than half the average rainfall is forcing hard decisions.

"There is zero evidence of a spring break happening any time soon, winter feed reserves have been used and hay or silage has become almost unprocurable or cost prohibitive," Sue told the Bellingen Courier-Sun.

"When calving cows are needing extra tucker, every mouth counts. And when that mouth is sustaining an unproductive animal or one that is unsaleable as a breeder, then they must go. Simple as that."

Across Bellingen Shire, Level 2 water restrictions were introduced on Monday due to the low rainfall in the catchment areas and falling river levels.

Nambucca Shire, which is currently on the lowest 'water conservation' level, has received about 60 per cent of its usual rainfall (YTD average of 1103mm compared to this year's 669mm); but in Kempsey where the rainfall January to August is normally 814mm, they've received a measly 233mm, just over a quarter of their average.

Port Macquarie would usually record 1058mm by August, but they've only had 390mm; while Taree, which would normally expect 802mm by now, has had 307mm.

Bureau of Meteorology head of long-range forecasting, Dr Andrew Watkins, said the coming three months were unlikely to deliver significant widespread rainfall across Australia.

"Unfortunately, the outlook is not indicating an easing of conditions in drought areas," Dr Watkins said.

Hillgrove on the New England tablelands, August 2019

Hillgrove on the New England tablelands, August 2019

"But a drier than average outlook is not an outlook for no rain at all. Significant rainfall events are always possible, so it's important to keep a close eye on the seven-day forecast.

"Winter was wet in parts of southern Victoria and western Tasmania, as well as central Queensland, but for most areas experiencing long-term rainfall deficiencies there was little relief."

The outlook for temperature in the coming three months shows most of Australia is likely to see warmer days and nights in the coming three months, with only isolated parts of southern Australia and Tasmania likely to see cooler conditions.

Dr Watkins said a positive Indian Ocean Dipole was the main climate driver impacting the outlook.

"A positive IOD means we have cooler than average waters between Australia and Indonesia. This generally means less cloud than normal forms to the northwest of Australia, resulting in less rainfall and higher than average temperatures over central and southeastern Australia during winter and spring.

"El Nino Southern Oscillation the other main driver, remains neutral, meaning it's having little influence over Australia's climate right now."

Armidale, August 2019

Armidale, August 2019

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