Drought is tightening its grip across a vast area of eastern Australia with last month proving one of the driest Octobers on record.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest monthly drought statement, issued on Thursday, shows last month was Australia’s seventh driest October since records began, with below- or very much below-average rainfall across most of the nation.
Averaged across the continent, rainfall was 59 per cent below the mean for October.
Only inland areas of Western Australia bucked the trend.
Climatologist Skie Tobin of the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate monitoring service said on Thursday the finding is part of a persistent pattern.
“We haven’t had that much rain across eastern Australia during the last month. With the lack of rain there has been no reason to see a shift in conditions so it’s expected that without significant rain that it will continue like this,” she said.
Low October rainfall contributed to worsening deficiencies in southern NSW, western Victoria and parts of South Australia in the four months to October 31, Ms Tobin said.
The Top End, desert regions around the SA/NT/WA border were also affected.
“At the shorter time scale, it’s predominantly across southern Riverina, western Victoria and agricultural regions of South Australia,” she said.
But statistics for the 11 months to October 31 show a prolonged dry spell over large areas of NSW and Queensland.
“In the longer term, you’ve got the drought areas across northeastern NSW and into southeast Queensland and if you go even longer into two years-plus, you’ve got a lot of areas over inland Queensland, particularly in the west,” Ms Tobin said.
“But you can also see areas of drought in western Victoria and just across the border into SA around that two-year scale.”
Ms Tobin said long-term climate indicators suggest Australia is experiencing “El Nino-like if not declared El Nino conditions”.
“We have seen most of the indicators in both the atmosphere and the oceans just bubbling along, not quite at the thresholds (where an El Nino could be declared) for a large portion of this year and nothing much has changed,” she said.
The BoM says there is a 50 per cent chance an El Nino will occur by the end of the year or during summer.