Showing posts with label drought. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drought. Show all posts

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Northern NSW likely to remain in drought for the foreseeable future

With the Clarence Valley hinterland in drought and water in the upper reaches of the Clarence River system already low, the following article is not good news for valley communities.

Indeed if the comparison with 2002 holds, then there is a possibility that freshwater entering the tidal pool just below the Lilydale gauge will eventually fall from around the current 286 megalitres daily (less than 10% of historical est. average daily flow) to around 50 megalitres a day.

ABC News, 6 September 2019: 

A rare event that took place 30 kilometres above the South Pole last week is expected to impact upon Australia's rainfall outlook. 

The upper atmosphere above Antarctica warmed by as much as 40 degrees Celsius in the course of a few days — and it is continuing to warm. 

This rare phenomenon, known as sudden stratospheric warming (SSW), could deepen one of the worst droughts in Australian history. 

The Bureau of Meteorology's Harry Hendon warned of dry weather ahead. "We will typically see conditions across most of Australia, but primarily concentrated in the eastern part of Australia, become warmer and drier through spring and into early summer," Dr Hendon said. 

SSW is rare in the southern hemisphere with only one major event ever identified, in 2002 — one of Australia's driest years on record.... 

Sudden stratospheric warming over Antarctica causes westerly winds south of Australia to track further north, a pattern meteorologists refer to as a 'negative SAM'. In spring and summer, this negative SAM pattern brings warmer, drier air into southern Queensland and New South Wales. 

"Unfortunately, these are areas already in drought," said a lead author of the BOM's spring climate outlook, Andrew Watkins. 

Dr Watkins said cooler than normal water in the Indian Ocean, a phenomenon meteorologists call a 'positive IOD', has led to a lack of moisture drifting over the continent. 

"This has certainly been a big factor in why winter has been so dry in virtually all of Australia," he said. 

"On top of that, we have the likelihood of prolonged periods of negative SAM, which also brings drier conditions to New South Wales and southern Queensland. 

"So it's a bit of a double whammy in those locations." Dr Watkins said the impact of the SSW may be felt in Australia through to the end of the year. 

"These sudden stratospheric warming events and the patterns that we see from them can go from September [to] October, sometimes persisting through to January," he said. 

Dr Hendon said he was gratified the Bureau of Meteorology's computer models were able to predict the event. 

"In 2002 we didn't even know about it until after it happened, and we didn't know if we would ever be able to predict it," he said. "It's exciting for us now that we have predictive capability that we didn't have in 2002."

NSW Department of Primary Industries, Combined Drought Indicator:


Bureau of Meteorology, 29 August 2019, media release, excerpt: 


Spring outlook shows: 

 • Daytime temperatures are likely to be warmer than average across the entire state. Overnight temperatures are also likely to be warmer than average across most of the state, with the highest likelihood in the north. 

• A higher likelihood of drier than average conditions in the coming three months across most of the state. 

Preliminary winter summary shows: 

 • Temperatures in New South Wales have been above average. Daytime temperatures are likely to rank among the warmest 10 winters on record. 

• Rainfall has been below average. 

• Likely to be among Sydney's three warmest winters on record for daytime temperatures, while rainfall was close to average.

Friday, 30 August 2019

NSW irrigators still have their heads buried deep in the sand of dry river beds

Ahead of the NSW Local Government Annual Conference to be held from 14-16 October 2019 irrigators' demands are becoming evermore unrealistic in the face of growing surface water shortages due to drought and climate change.

And once again damming and diverting water from the Clarence River system is mentioned.

One has to wonder if the irrigators in the article below realise that, at the point where all the main river tributaries have contributed to the Clarence River flow, water height was only 0.89 metres or slightly less than 3 feet on 28 August 2019, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology which publishes recorded river heights for NSW Northern Rivers.

Water NSW graphs

Further upriver at Tabulum water height was recorded as only -0.04 metres.

The wide full river that these irrigators see on the Internet only runs from Grafton to the sea (approx. 52 kms as the crow flies) and all that way it is saline because the lower river is tidal and that additional undrinkable water volume comes from the ocean.

The Irrigator, Leeton NSW, 27 August 2019, p.5: 

Community leaders agreed to work together to "claw back" water from the NSW government at a Build More Dams meeting recently. 

The meeting attendees agreed to lobby the state government to return "voluntary contributions" of water, which have been siphoned from MIA irrigators since 2002. 

Irrigators had been giving up five per cent of their high security allocations and 15 per cent of their general security allocations, which translates to billions of dollars worth of water - and magnitudes more in today's water prices. Griffith City Council and Leeton Shire Council's mayors also agreed to support the lobbying efforts and urge other councils within the Murray Darling Association to join suit. 

Leeton's mayor Paul Maytom was present at the meeting. 

The committee also agreed to lobby the state government for a feasibility study into the Clarence River diversion scheme that was suggested by engineer David Coffey. 

The scheme would capture Clarence River water in dams and pump it into the Murray Darling system. 

The third and final motion agreed upon by the committee was to take an official stance and throw their support behind a royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. 

The committee will be joining the ranks of the NSW Farmers Griffith branch, which has also recently thrown their support behind a royal commission.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Clarence River under stress as it passes through Kyogle region

The Daily Examiner, 5 August 2019, p.13:

“It's pretty bad,” was how one Tabulam resident described the current state of the once mighty Clarence River. 

Residents have stopped pumping water from the river because of blue-green algae caused by low water levels. 

Three of four water trucks pass Mr McMillan’s front door every day, taking water from the river and he said they are likely to be doing this legally but it wouldn’t be helping with the river flow. 

“In 1991 people used to have ski boats and put them in behind the police station and ski upstream,” he said. 

Now that same area is a pasture with no sign of the river, the small flow hidden behind mounds.

Further upstream past the Tabulam Bridge there is an island of sand that was never there before, Mr McMillan said.... 

 “Council is aware that some residents supplement their rainwater tank supply with water sourced from the Clarence River. With the flows in the Clarence so low at present, it is likely that the ability to source this supplementary supply would be compromised.”.....

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

New South Wales State of Play February 2019: widespread drought

The bad news just never ends.

All of New South Wales is drought affected to varying degrees in February 2019, incliuding the Northern Rivers region.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Australia's water evaporation levels are running at record rates in 2018

The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 2018:

Australia's evaporation levels are running at record rates, especially across eastern states, increasing the misery for drought-hit farmers and raising bushfire risks as the mercury starts to climb.

While rainfall deficiencies have drawn much attention, stronger-than-usual winds, abnormally sunny days and low humidity have combined to push up evaporation levels, Bureau of Meteorology data shows.

Across the nation, evaporation last month averaged 145.21 millimetres, well above the 128.6 mm typical for July, and the most on record for data going back to 1975, said Karl Braganza, head of climate monitoring at the bureau.

The national tally beat the previous record in 2002. On a regional level, the evaporation rate was the highest on record for Victoria, and also smashed previous records for eastern Australia as a whole.

July pan evaporation for Eastern Australia


If you live in a NSW rural/regional area or an outer metropolitan suburb with thick tree cover.....

Now is the time to make or update your bushfire survival plan.

Because the fires have come early this year and intermittant rainfall is unlikely to ease the threat for long., 16 August 2018:

NSW has declared its earliest total fire ban on record, with hundreds of South Coast residents forced to flee their homes amidst a massive blaze.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that fire crews battled at least 83 fires across the state, following stronger-than-expected winds, creating fire bans that beat the previous record by two weeks. Compounding problems was the fact that, according to The Daily Telegraph ($), two huge water bombers were not in action because they had not yet arrived from the US ahead of Australia’s summer season.

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
New South Wales

Fire Weather Warning for the Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney Region and Illawarra/Shoalhaven fire areas.

Issued at 10:37 am EST on Wednesday 15 August 2018.

Weather Situation
Warm, dry and windy conditions over southeast NSW today ahead of a cold front,
which will pass to the south of the state overnight.

For the rest of Wednesday 15 August:

Severe Fire Danger is forecast for the following fire areas:
Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney Region and Illawarra/Shoalhaven

The NSW Rural Fire Service advises you to:
- Action your Bushfire Survival Plan now.
- Monitor the fire and weather situation through your local radio station, and
- Call 000 (Triple Zero) in an emergency.

The Rural Fire Service advises that if you are in an area of Severe Fire Danger:
- If you plan to leave finalise your options and leave early on the day
- Only stay if your home is well prepared and you can actively defend it
- Prepare for the emotional, mental and physical impact of defending your
property - if in doubt, leave.
For information on preparing for bushfires go to

No further warnings will be issued for this event, but the situation will
continue to be monitored and further warnings issued if necessary.

For up-to-date information for your local area see NSW Rural Fire Service’s  Fire Danger Ratings and Total Fire Bans and Fires Near Me.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Too warm, too dry as Winter draws closer to Spring in Australia 2018

Warmer days and nights favoured for August–October

August to October days and nights are likely to be warmer than average for most of the country, with high chances (greater than 80%) in eastern Victoria and NSW, and southern Tasmania.

Days and nights in August are likely to be warmer than average for most of Australia, with high chances (greater than 80%) of warmer days in the southeast.

Historical accuracy for August–October maximum temperatures is moderate for eastern and northern parts of Australia, as well as southern WA. Elsewhere, accuracy is low to very low. Historical accuracy for minimum temperatures is moderate for the northern half of Australia, SA, and Tasmania, but low to very low elsewhere.

Temperature - The chance of above median maximum temperature for August to October

Drier than average August–October likely in northeast and southeast mainland
August to October is likely to be drier than average in Victoria, NSW, southeast SA and northeast Queensland

The August outlook shows most of Victoria, NSW and Queensland are likely to be drier than average.

Historical outlook accuracy for August to October is moderate over most of the country, except for interior WA, where accuracy is low to very low.

Rainfall - Totals that have a 75% chance of occurring for August to October


June rainfall was below average for most of Australia, and very much below average for parts of the east coast

The start of the southern wet season has been drier than average

Rainfall deficiencies persist in both the east and west of the country, increasing in the east at the 6- and 15-month timescales, and along the west coast at the 15-month timescale

Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for June across most of New South Wales, the southern half of Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the Kimberley and the south of Western Australia

Soil Moisture

Soil moisture in the lower layer (from 10 cm to 100 cm deep) for June decreased over eastern Australia, and increased over parts of northwest Western Australia following above average rainfall for June.

Lower-layer soil moisture was below average for the Kimberley and southern Western Australia away from the west coast, most of South Australia and the Northern Territory, New South Wales and eastern Victoria, southern and eastern Queensland south of a line between Birdsville and Townsville, and along the coastal fringe of eastern Cape York Peninsula.

Map of lower level soil moisture for the previous month

NSW Dept. of Primary Industries, NSW State Seasonal Update - June 2018. Click on map to enlarge:

Tweed, Richmond, Kyogle, Lismore, Byron Bay, Ballina, Clarence Valley local government areas, as at 15 July 2018 according to Combined Drought Indicator:

The entire Northern Rivers region is considered drought affected. 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Forecasting a dangerous present and devastating future for Australia

“Background warming associated with anthropogenic climate change has seen Australian annual mean temperature increase by approximately 1.1 °C since 1910. Most of this warming has occurred since 1950.” [Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Annual Climate Statement 2017]

Bloomberg, 10 January 2018:

The road-melting heatwave that made Sydney the hottest place on Earth at the weekend may just be a taste of things to come. 

Temperatures in Australia are set to rise until around 2050 due to greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere, according to the country’s weather bureau

“Australia is one country where you really can see the signal of global warming,” Karl Braganza, the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate monitoring, told reporters on a call. “We’ve locked the degree of warming in until mid-century and that means it’s likely that one of the next strong El Nino events in the coming decade or two will set a new record.”

Western Sydney touched 47.3 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday and 2017 was Australia’s third-hottest year on record. Heat and drought risk devastating crops in Australia, the world’s third-largest exporter of cotton where farm production is forecast to be worth A$59 billion ($46 billion) this financial year.

The Heat is On
Australia has had just one cooler-than-average year since 2005
Since 2005, Australia has notched up seven of its 10 warmest years, the weather bureau said in its annual climate statement.

More heatwaves could stress a power grid that’s struggled to cope with demand as people crank up air-conditioning during the scorching summer months.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology Annual Climate Statement 2017, issued January 2018.

Visible impacts in 2018.................

The Guardian, 9 January 2018:

More than 400 animals have died in one colony alone as temperatures soar above 47C, causing exhaustion and dehydration

Mounds of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown suburb of Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Stocktake of waterbirds in eastern Australia has shown the lowest breeding level on record

ABC News 27 December 2015:

A stocktake of waterbirds in eastern Australia has shown the lowest breeding level on record.
The annual aerial survey, conducted by the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, confirmed a dramatic long-term decline in the number of waterbirds.
Director Richard Kingsford said that over 33 years of counting, average numbers had fallen more than 60 per cent.
The trend continued in 2015 with a further drop compared to the previous three-to-five-year period.
"This is the second lowest number of waterbirds we've seen in that 33-year period and it's symptomatic of the real impacts of this drought that's occurring across the eastern half of the continent," Professor Kingsford said.
The survey covered all the major rivers, lakes and wetlands from Queensland down through New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, including the Murray-Darling Basin and the Riverina.
The team found the Macquarie Marshes and Lowbidgee wetlands were only partially filled, most rivers in the Murray-Darling Basin were also relatively dry, with little wetland habitat on their floodplains, and all the large lakes in the Menindee system were dry.
The Lake Eyre and Cooper Creek wetlands were mostly dry except for a small area to their east, while important wetlands in the Lake Eyre Basin including Lakes Galilee, Yamma Yamma, Torquinnie and Mumbleberry were dry.
Waterbirds were concentrated in relatively few important sites, with only four wetland systems holding more than 5,000 birds: Lake Killapaninna, Lake Allallina, Paroo overflow Lakes and Coolmunda Dam.
Most alarmingly, the total breeding index of all 50 species combined was the lowest on record and well below the long-term average……
Professor Kingsford said climate change also needed to be taken into account.
"For these wetlands, they rely on that water staying around so animals and plants can go through their life cycles, but if you've got less of the water actually coming in at the top end and when it gets to the wetland there's a high evaporation rate then it's really challenging in the long term as well," he said.
"So a whole series of targets have been set and the big challenge is: did we get enough water for the environment over the next 15 to 20 years?"
He warned that if the regulators did not find the right balance, the wider community would pay a hefty price.
"We know in the millennium drought, for example, when there wasn't enough water for the Lower Lakes and the Coorong, governments had to put their hands in their pockets to spend $2 billion to actually rescue that system," Professor Kingsford said.
"We currently have a dredge parked in the mouth of the River Murray which is trying to keep it open — a service that the environment used to do for nothing, and that's costing taxpayers up to $100,000 a week."
He said the birds were a barometer, indicating declining health of the whole ecosystem.

Blogging the 2015 Aerial Survey.

Click on the survey route to read a blog post or the arrow button on the top lefthand side to access the list of blogs.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Watching the weather with bated breath......

Photograph: Queensland Country Life 24 January 2014

The world’s meteorologists and climate experts are watching closely for another burst of westerly winds across the Pacific that could trigger the first El Nino weather pattern since 2009-2010.

“Basically it is primed for a strong El Nino, but it needs the final push,” said Axel Timmermann, the professor of oceanography at the international Pacific research centre, University of Hawaii. “This is perhaps the most-watched El Nino of all time.”

The weather watch comes as winter remains largely at bay for much of Australia. Sydney and Melbourne broke heat records during autumn and maximums in both cities have been about 2-3 degrees above average for June.

This week, Sydney can expect tops most days of 20-22 degrees, or about 3-5 degrees above normal, while Melbourne's maximums will be 1-2 degrees above the June average of 14 degrees, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

An El Nino could make this year another warm one for Australia. Last year was the country's warmest in more than a century of records.

El Ninos form when waters in the eastern Pacific turn unusually warm compared with the west, stalling or reversing the easterly trade winds. The pattern is a major driver of the world’s climate and can trigger droughts and bushfires in Australia and east Asia, while bringing heavy rains to countries bordering the eastern Pacific……

National Climate Centre Drought Statement 4 June 2014