LATE February rainfall has eased dry conditions in some parts of south-eastern Australia but large areas remain parched as farmers prepare the next season’s crops, the weather bureau said.
In its latest rainfall deficiencies report, the bureau noted cropping regions in south-eastern South Australia and south-western Victoria had had rainfall “in the lowest 5 per cent of records” over spring and summer.
“It’s getting close to record dries in (South Australia), western Victoria, western NSW and western Queensland,” said Darren Ray, senior climatologist at the bureau in Adelaide.
Dry conditions in many areas have been exacerbated by the hottest summer on record for Australia, with the heat continuing over South Australia and Victoria.
Melbourne remains on course for 30 degrees or more every day until a cool change arrives late next Wednesday. Save for stronger-than-forecast sea breezes, the city will mark 10 consecutive days of such heat – its longest run on record for any month, beating the previous stint by two days.
The departure from historical averages is one reason the weather bureau will switch to a dynamic climate model - based on physical readings rather than past statistics - for its three-month outlook, starting in May.
The Australian water availability project, a venture in part by the weather bureau and CSIRO, indicates particularly low moisture levels exist for upper layers of soil over the south-west of Victoria and the western half of Tasmania.
Lower layers of soil - down to one metre - are also showing poor moisture levels over virtually all of Victoria and the key grain-growing belt of south-western Western Australia.
Farmers in south-eastern Australia can expect some rainfall relief later in this month and next, with wetter-than-average conditions expected for autumn aided by inflows of tropical moisture.
“We’re not seeing a lot (of rain) around in the next week or so,” Mr Ray said.
The rainfall deficiencies have also spread north with the Top End posting its driest wet season in more than two decades and some areas near Gove eyeing their driest “wet” on record.
Northern pastoral areas of South Australia, such as Oodnadatta, have also posted their driest conditions on record, with some regions collecting only 10mm of rain in the past 11 months.
“It does start to cause issues for water availability and apparently Oodnadatta’s getting a little bit down,” Mr Ray said.
“Camels and horses are coming into town looking for green foliage and water.”
"It’s also increased fire risks,’’ he said.