Record breaking summer ends dry

17 Mar 2017

While welcome rain was received across areas of eastern, central and northern NSW last week, the record breaking summer has ended with the third-warmest February on record.

On top of the extreme heat, almost 70 per cent of NSW received below average rainfall during February.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Seasonal Conditions Coordinator Ian McGowen said the summer heat continued through to the end of the season, with well above average daytime temperatures, particularly during the first half of February.

“Many parts of the state experienced their driest February on record, with  areas of western and central NSW receiving little or no rainfall,” Mr McGowen said.

“Most of the far west, north west, central west and central tablelands received below average rainfall, as well as areas of the upper Hunter valley, north coast, southern and northern tablelands, Monaro and western Riverina.

“Rainfall was closer to average across most of the coast, Riverina, northern tablelands and the far south during February. However, most of these areas still received totals that were less than 60-80 per cent of normal.

“Above average rainfall was limited to areas of the Sydney basin and Illawarra, and isolated parts of the southern and northern tablelands.

“Pasture growth was low across most of NSW during February, due to the well above average temperatures, high evaporation and low rainfall.

“The extremely hot conditions and limited rainfall meant topsoil moisture levels declined across NSW during the month.”

Mr McGowen said the high temperatures during January and February had damaged and reduced the yield potential of dryland summer crops, particularly in northern, north eastern and central NSW.

“Irrigated crops have suffered less damage, although additional irrigation was required to maintain them,” Mr McGowen said.

“Average to above average yields are still expected for irrigated cotton. However, due to the hot and dry conditions, some damage has occurred and yields are likely to be lower than last year.

“The yield potential for irrigated crops in southern NSW remains average to above average, particularly for rice.”

Mr McGowen said a number of climate models are suggesting the possibility of drier autumn and winter conditions, with an increased risk of an El Niño event developing during winter.

“Model skill is low at this time of year, so an El Niño event may not eventuate,” Mr McGowen said.

“However, some preparation for a possibly drier season is worthwhile, particularly in inland NSW. Fortunately, last year’s winter and spring conditions ensured good grain and fodder reserves.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s rainfall outlook for March to May indicates drier than normal conditions are likely, with daytime and overnight temperatures expected to be warmer than normal across most of NSW.

To prepare for drought conditions, primary producers are encouraged to visit Droughthub.

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