A NSW Government website

Climate Change and Primary Industries

The impacts of climate change are likely to disrupt primary industries in many ways, including changes to agricultural productivity, crop yields and pasture availability, and changes in the spread of pests, weeds and diseases.

Understanding the extent of these changes and the associated vulnerability of primary industries is critical for managing risks and making sound adaptation decisions.

At the same time, climate change may offer new opportunities that producers can take advantage of. Understanding the timing and nature of potential opportunities is essential if producers are to be prepared to maximise any benefits.

“In NSW, 15 of the 20 warmest years on record have occurred since 2002”.

Reference: Bureau of Meteorology

General trends in climate change for NSW

Climate change projections present a mixed picture for NSW, with stronger changes anticipated in some areas of the state compared to others. The following tables summarise a number of observed changes in climate (temperature and rainfall) for NSW since records began, and projected changes over the next 30-50 years.

Change in NSW Temperatures1,2



Mean, Maximum, Minimum Temperatures

Extreme Temperatures



Mean temperature has increased by 1.44°C since 1910.

There has been an increase in very hot days across Australia in recent years – 2019 had 33 days above 39°C – more than the total number observed between 1960-2018.


Mean Temperature has increased 0.3 - 0.6°C per decade from 1970 to 2020.

2019 was the hottest year on record for NSW, 2.4°C above the 1961-1990 average.



Projections for NSW temperatures over the next 3-5 decades indicate both minimum and maximum temperatures increasing in all seasons – there are NO decreases.

There is some regional variation in the upper range of increases, for example:

  • increases between 1.0 to 2.7°C for the Western, North West and Central West
  • increases between 1.0 to 2.5°C for the Hunter, Greater Sydney, South East, Riverina and Murray
  • increases between 1.0 to 2.4°C for the North Coast

Projections for climate extremes have high uncertainty. However, it is expected that the frequency and intensity of very hot days, fire weather and heavy rainfall will increase in coming decades.

Change in NSW Rainfall1,2


Annual Rainfall

Seasonal Rainfall


There is no clear trend (increase or decrease) in annual rainfall, due to the high degree of natural variability (especially Murray Darling Basin).

Since 1990, total annual NSW and Murray Darling Basin rainfall has varied from very dry to very wet, including the lowest (2019) and the 3rd highest on record (2010) for NSW, and the lowest (2019) & highest (2010) for the Murray Darling Basin.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, cool season (April-October) rainfall in SE Australia has declined by 12% since the late 1990s (compared to the 1961-1990 average). Despite this, the years 1990, 1998, 2010 and 2016 are among the wettest 10% of years on record (2016 was the highest on record in the Murray-Darling Basin).


There is far greater uncertainty in projections for future rainfall than for temperature, ranging from (in the near future ~ 2030):

  • Annual rainfall decreases of 10% to increases of 11%

There is far greater uncertainty in projections for future rainfall than for temperature, ranging from (in the near future ~ 2030):

  • Spring: decreases of 18% to increases of 11%
  • Summer: decreases of 13% to increases of 12%
  • Autumn: decreases of 11% to increases of 48%
  • Winter: decreases of 16% to increases of 4%

In the longer term, there is even greater uncertainty, with increases in annual, summer and autumn rainfall likely; spring shows the least change, whilst winter has an equal chance of being wetter or drier.

At present, the evidence basis for making planning and adaptation decisions is neither comprehensive nor readily accessible. This makes it difficult for policy makers and industry to make fully informed choices about what is required to build a resilient future for primary industries across NSW.

The Department of Primary Industries, through the Climate Change Research Strategy, is undertaking a comprehensive assessment of primary industry vulnerability to climate change for New South Wales.


Sources of information are:

1 Australian Government, Bureau of Meteorology: https://bom.gov.au

2 NSW DPIE, AdaptNSW: https://climatechange.environment.nsw.gov.au/