Prepared by NSW DPI
Drought conditions continue for much of NSW
Seasonal Climate Outlook and Climate Drivers Update – January to March 2024
The outlook is for very warm conditions across NSW and a decreased chance of above median rainfall for much of NSW in the February to April period.
The CDI and its individual rainfall, soil moisture and crop/pasture growth metrics are leading biophysical indices of seasonal conditions and drought status. Other factors affecting production and economic responses usually lag the CDI. Further information about the correct interpretation of the CDI at a region and industry level is provided in the regional breakdown section of this report .
It is important to recognise the CDI provides an aggregated view of NSW, and that on-ground conditions can be different to those displayed in the maps. They provide an ‘on average’ view of a particular region only.
Variable rainfall during January
Higher rainfall for much of NSW relative to long term records
Higher than average maximum temperatures for most of NSW
Near average minimum temperatures for most of NSW
Plant greenness levels are variable across NSW.
NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Drought & Supp Feed Calculator app has been re-released to support NSW livestock producers with their decision making as seasonal conditions change.
The Drought & Supp Feed Calculator simplifies decision making for livestock producers by enabling users to assess pastures and work out feed requirement and if supplementary feeding is needed, compare different supplements and ration mixes, and calculate the costs of different feeding options.
Search for Drought & Supp Feed Calculator and download the application from your app store.
Water availability is highly variable across NSW
NSW DPI Farm Tracker Application reports are completed by users across NSW. One report provided an on-ground drought assessment in January and the assessment indicates that the area reported is experiencing a mild drought (Figure 5b).
The Farm Tracker application is freely available and can be used to help monitor seasonal conditions on your property. Completing a report allows a user to create a geotagged photo diary, monitor dam levels, or record changes at an individual paddock level.
This information provides a detailed and visual record of a farm over time that can be invaluable for budgeting, planning and decision making. The data collected for each farm is not available for other people to see or search.
Reports are also used by NSW DPI as a highly valuable information source to ground truth products from the DPI Seasonal Conditions Monitoring Program. Farmers data remains anonymous in this use.
Search for NSWDPI Farm Tracker and download the application from your app store.
The individual indicators are displayed at a 1km2 gridded resolution. This allows readers to explore the indicator values (percentile scale 0-100) at a much higher level of detail.
The colour scale for each map transitions to a grey scale at the 30th percentile. The 30th percentile is one of the critical thresholds that DPI uses to monitor drought intensity (the threshold for Drought Affected). The grey scale also shows the 5th percentile used to delineate Drought and Intense Drought.
The Soil Water, Plant Growth and Rainfall indicators are all calculated by taking the mean of daily values over the last 12 months and ranking them relative to a 40-year baseline period. This configuration is used to detect moderate to severe drought events with a multiple season duration. The indicators track large changes and are not overtly sensitive to day-to-day or recent conditions over the past month, so lag physical conditions in the field at the time of observation.
The Soil Water Index (SWI) shows conditions are variable across NSW.
Plant Growth Index values remain stable.
Rainfall Index values remain variable.
Drying trend continues for most of NSW.
Changes in the individual drought indicators may have occurred since this update was released. For the most current information, please visit DroughtHub.
(issued 1 February 2024)
Below median rainfall outlook for much of NSW.
Warm to hot conditions to continue for much of NSW.
The official national outlook was released by the Bureau of Meteorology on 1 February 2024.
The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) values have weakened.
The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) index is currently neutral, as of 6 February (Figure 16).
The Southern Annular Mode (SAM) refers to the north-south shift of rain-bearing westerly winds and weather systems in the Southern Ocean compared to their usual position. During summer a positive SAM increases the chance of above average rainfall for parts of eastern NSW. This indicator can be quite volatile and generally influences weather conditions on 1-to-3-week timescales.
The Combined Drought Indicator (CDI) is a tool that monitors drought conditions across NSW. The drought categories are based on assessing the response of three drought indicators: soil water, plant growth and rainfall. The indicators take data over the past 12 months and rank how these conditions sit within the past 40 years of variability. The drought indicators reflect large changes not week to week variability and can lag on-ground conditions.
The information provided in this section provides a regional assessment of conditions (Figure 17). Variability within and between farms is possible and this may not be reflected in the CDI products. The following regional descriptions are based on data available until the end of January2023.
The production outlook continues to improve across the LLS regions.
Drought indicators have responded to rainfall over recent months.
Figure 18. Combined Drought Indicator for the Murray and Riverina regions
Figure 19. NDVI anomaly map for the Murray and Riverina LLS regions
Western region producers are monitoring their local seasonal conditions and forecasts closely in line with their production systems.
Drought indicators remain variable but have responded to recent rainfall.
Figure 21. Combined Drought Indicator for the Western LLS region
Figure 22. 3-month NDVI anomaly map for the Western region
Producers are continuing to focus on short to medium term management strategies for their productions systems.
Drought indicators are varied across the regions.
Figure 24. Combined Drought Indicator for the North West, Northern Tableland and North Coast regions
Figure 25. 3-month NDVI anomaly map for the North West, Northern Tableland and North Coast regions
Drought conditions continue to impact the regions
Drought indicators have responded to recent rainfall.
Drought conditions continue for parts of the South East region.
Drought indicators are variable across the region.
Figure 30. Combined Drought Indicator for the South East region
Figure 31. 3-month NDVI anomaly map for the South East region
The Combined Drought Indicator is one source of information that informs policy and Government responses to changing seasonal conditions, including drought. The map provides a snapshot of conditions at a point in time and is not used to determine eligibility for drought assistance measures offered by the NSW Government.
Much of the information in the Seasonal Conditions Report is sourced from the NSW DPI Enhanced Drought Information System (EDIS)™. The EDIS system is subject to an intensive ground truthing process. For more information, visit the interactive website via droughthub.nsw.gov.au.
EDIS is an ongoing project aimed at improving the quality and timeliness of efforts to monitor conditions across the state. Key features of the system are:
The way in which the indicators are combined to form the CDI is described in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Description of the Combined Drought Indicator framework
Description - typical field conditions
All indicators greater than the 50th percentile or all indicators are greater than the 30th percentile AND the previous category is Non-drought
Production is not limited by climatic conditions.
All indicators are greater than the 30th percentile AND any indicator is less than the 50th percentile AND the previous category is Drought Affected.
Production is occurring but would be considered ‘below average’. Full production recovery may not have occurred if this area has experienced drought conditions over the past six months.
Drought Affected (weakening)
Any indicator is less than the 30th percentile AND Positive 5-month Rainfall Index trend (DDI>0.4).
Production conditions are getting tighter, but there have been some falls of rain over the past month. It is rare to enter the Recovering phase from the Non-Drought category; Usually there is a quick (1-2 week) transition into Drought Affected or Drought. When indicators are close to the Drought threshold drought conditions are severe.
Drought Affected (intensifying)
Any indicator is less than the 30th percentile AND Negative 5-month Rainfall Index trend (DDI≤0.4).
Conditions are deteriorating; production is beginning to get tighter. Ground cover may be modest, but growth is moderate to low for the time of year. When indicators are close to the Drought threshold drought conditions are severe.
Any indicator is less than the 5th percentile
Conditions may be very dry, or agronomic production is tight (low soil moisture or plant growth). It is possible to be in Drought when there has been some modest growth, or a few falls of rain.
All three indicators (rainfall, soil water, plant growth) are below the 5th percentile
Ground cover is very low, soil moisture stores are exhausted, and rainfall has been minimal over the past 6-12 months.
The NSW State Seasonal Update is provided each month by the NSW DPI Climate Branch.
Information used in this report was primarily sourced from the Australian National University, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (Columbia University), Geoscience Australia’s Digital Earth Australia Program, and NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Maps in this document contain data which is © Spatial Services – NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (2024), Panorama Avenue, Bathurst 2795 and data which is © Commonwealth of Australia 2023, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, and © Australian National University. All rights reserved.
The seasonal outlooks presented in this report are obtained from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and other sources (including World Meteorological Organisation Global Producing Centres). These outlooks are general statements about the likelihood (chance) of (for example) exceeding the median rainfall or minimum or maximum temperatures. Such probability outlooks should not be used as categorical or definitive forecasts but should be regarded as tools to assist in risk management and decision making. Changes in seasonal outlooks may have occurred since this report was released.
All climate and remote sensing input data is supplied to the Enhanced Drought Information System™ under the Australian Creative Commons Licence (CCY 4.0) and is made available by the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network.
© State of New South Wales through the Department of Regional NSW, 2024. You may copy, distribute and otherwise freely deal with this publication for any purpose, provided that you attribute the NSW Department of Primary Industries as the owner.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing (February 2024). However, because of advances in knowledge, users are reminded of the need to ensure that information upon which they rely is up to date and to check currency of the information with the appropriate officer of the Department of Primary Industries or the user’s independent adviser.
Published by the NSW Department of Primary Industries. ISSN 2202-1795 (Online). Volume 12 Issue 1.