Almost two-thirds of state now out of drought or recovering

A storm near Bourke in November delivered 90mm, while at Levi Mannion's place, 40km out of White Cliffs, there was also good rain, followed through this year and last month. Photo: Shelby-Rae Mannion.
A storm near Bourke in November delivered 90mm, while at Levi Mannion's place, 40km out of White Cliffs, there was also good rain, followed through this year and last month. Photo: Shelby-Rae Mannion.

It takes your breath away after three years of one of the worst droughts in modern history to see the latest NSW drought indicator map showing how much of the state (65 per cent) is now in the non-drought category.

The other telling feature of the August seasonal conditions map issued by the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on Wednesday is to see there are no more red zone intense drought areas.

The drought indicator is not great for everyone, with areas of the far Northern Tablelands, the west of the Western Division and the Monaro and Bega districts still struggling with dry conditions.

But for many areas it has been top up after top up since late last year.

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And rain in the last two days has again topped up some areas, mainly in central and northern areas with up until 9am Thursday, Dubbo recording 16mm, Scone 13mm, Armidale 12mm, Tamworth 15mm, Narrabri 9mm, with totals growing on the North-West Plains and Slopes and Northern Tablelands as a trough moved north towards Queensland.

Scott Wallace, seasonal conditions co-ordinator DPI, said there was also concern that crops in the north-west were struggling after a good start to the growing season, and needed some follow up rain soon. Recent warm weather had also put pressure on the north's crops, he said.

"To see 10 days of 28 degrees or more in the north could take a lot out of the sub-soil moisture. Since the start of the season they have been struggling for that growing season rainfall."

But the good news, according to the DPI's bulletin was that "the drought event continued to weaken across much of NSW during August".

"The area in non-drought has expanded and much of NSW is well positioned for longer-term recovery.

"The NSW DPI Combined Drought Indicator (CDI) shows that 65 per cent of NSW is now in the Non-Drought or Recovery categories."

How far we've come - 65 per cent of state in non-drought or recovery category. It's a marked difference to the start of the year. Map courtesy of the NSW DPI.

How far we've come - 65 per cent of state in non-drought or recovery category. It's a marked difference to the start of the year. Map courtesy of the NSW DPI.

The central parts of the state have put on a strong recovery.

"Cropping in the central areas has had timely rain to date, in fact you could say it was too wet in some spots, and some fear we could be looking down the barrel of a wet harvest," Mr Wallace said.

Mr Wallace said the climate models pointed to above average rain later in spring after this current warm spell and the forming of a La Nina event.

The DPI said in its outlook: "official climate outlook for spring indicates high probabilities of receiving above median rainfall for NSW. The development of a possible La Nina event and negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)-like conditions strengthened during the month.

"Satellite data and on-ground reports confirm that conditions have improved during the month, particularly in central and some eastern regions of the state. The strength of drought recovery increased in parts of the Riverina, Murray and south east of the state."

There was an upside to the recent warmer weather. It will promote pasture growth including in some of the areas still designated in drought, such as the Monaro and Bega, where good rain fell in August.

A warmer spring in the south should quickly bring on some feed in those areas.

This story Almost two-thirds of NSW now out of drought or recovering first appeared on The Land.