Heatwaves have exacerbated the effects of the ongoing drought: DPI

UP IN THE AIR: Parkes farmer Neil Westcott missed out on the benefits of recent dramatic storms in the Central West.

UP IN THE AIR: Parkes farmer Neil Westcott missed out on the benefits of recent dramatic storms in the Central West.

Central West farmers who are going through one of the worst droughts in 100 years didn’t get what they needed from recent thunderstorms and rainfall in the region.

Neil Westcott, a fifth-generation farmer in Parkes, says the thunderstorms were very localised and they didn’t bring much rain to his area.

“We pretty much missed most of the storm rain,” said Mr Westcott, who last year had his poorest harvest of wheat and canola in 40 years.

“We had a very wild storm causing losses in hundreds and thousands of dollars in January, but it was mainly wind.”

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Mr Westcott said a little bit of moisture was added to the surface, but it’s all gone because of the high evaporation rate.  

“The surface moisture doesn’t last long around this time of the year.” 

Brett Dutschke, a senior meteorologist with Weatherzone, said the Central West saw many thunderstorms in January and the first week of February, bringing more than the average rain in areas such as Bathurst and Orange. 

Bathurst received 154.5 millimetres of rain in January compared with its long-term monthly average of 67.8mm. The city has already received 48.6mm this month compared with its long-term monthly average of 57.6mm.

Similarly, Orange and Dubbo got their average monthly rainfall in January. 

About 62mm of rain has already fallen in the first 10 days of February in Orange compared with the city’s long-term monthly average of 77.5mm.

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Lithgow, Oberon, Canowindra, Cowra, Young, Grenfell and Narromine received more than their average monthly rainfall in January. 

“The rain has added a bit of moisture to the topmost layer, but it is not sufficient to break the drought,” Mr Dutschke said. 

“We need longer-lasting rain to add more significant moisture at lower depths of soil.  

“Also, evaporation in dry days is much higher than normal.”  

Mr Dutschke said the rain was hit and miss in many areas in the form of thunderstorms.

Parkes, Forbes and Nyngan received less than their monthly average rainfall in January.

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The NSW Department of Primary Industries said drought conditions have re-intensified in the west of the state.

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said despite the storms, about 99.8 per cent of NSW remains in drought.

“Numerous records were broken in January, where some areas observed the lowest January rainfall totals in more than a century, while other areas received their lowest totals in 20 years,” Mr Blair said.

“Heat records were also broken, with 90 per cent of NSW experiencing the warmest January in history.

“This heatwave has exacerbated the effects of the ongoing drought and further compromised the ability of areas that have received rainfall to make any significant improvements.” 

About 36 per cent of NSW is in intense drought, 44 per cent is in drought and 18 per cent is drought-affected.

This story Hit and miss: Recent storms and rainfall frustrating for farmers first appeared on Western Advocate.