10 Jan 2019
The drought conditions affecting most of the state are likely to continue into 2019, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) State Seasonal Update (SSU) for December 2018.
NSW DPI Leader Climate Applications and Digital Agriculture Dr Anthony Clark said large parts of western and central NSW remained in the Drought, or Intense Drought categories of the NSW monitoring framework, despite some isolated storms throughout December.
“While some parts of the state received scattered storm activity leading up to the new year, this hasn’t been sustained enough to allow for significant pasture or crop production,” he said.
“That means there has been very minimal opportunity for dryland summer cropping, and there are very low levels of ground cover so farmers have had to continue feeding their livestock.
“Areas in the North West of the state, such as Walgett and Coonamble, have now experienced 18 months or more of extremely dry conditions in terms of the long-term historical context.”
Data from the NSW farm dam survey has underlined how critical conditions have become in some areas, particularly in Western NSW.
“In this part of NSW, the nature of the drought event has shifted such that farmers and communities are not just managing an agronomic event (low primary production), but the hydrological impact is evident with critically low water reserves,” Dr Clark said.
Conditions did improve on the eastern seaboard and parts of the ranges and tablelands which received moderate to high rainfall over December 2018, with intensive storms continuing to track across this part of NSW.
“This continues the weak to moderate recovery trajectory being experienced in these regions, building on rainfall received in late spring 2018, although these regions still remain in the Drought Affected category,” Dr Clark said.
Official climate forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology indicate that the next three months are likely to exceed average daytime and overnight temperatures across the state, meaning drought conditions are likely to remain at current levels or intensity over the coming months.