Stock feeding at a temporary standstill in some western parts of the Coonamble Shire as parched paddocks cop a soaking over the weekend. PHOTO: Hayley O’Connor
Rain Relief … for some
WITH Sydney and the east coast receiving a dumping of rain that dowsed fires and topped up depleted water supplies over the past week, the rain in inland NSW and Queensland has almost become a second tier news story.
Coastal areas have gone from fire alert to storm watch and, as of Tuesday morning 11 February, areas from Byron Bay down to Eden in the far south were issued with a Severe Weather Warning for Abnormally High Tides and many areas are also on flood watch as their rivers swell.
The higher falls out west have not gone unnoticed and local landholders Michael Heaney and Dugald Bucknell were interviewed on national television news discussing the deluge that areas around Quambone received over Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 February.
The district has enjoyed a string of days of cloudy and humid weather that was most welcome after the extended heatwave conditions of just the week before.
Coonamble’s maximum temperature dropped from 42.5 degrees celsius on Sunday 2 February to a very mild 27 degrees just 3 days later on Wednesday 5 February when 24 mm was recorded at Coonamble Airport.
The rainfall, touted as the best across the wider area since March 2019, has not been as general as hoped and large disparities were recorded even within individual properties. Coonamble airport’s weather station has recorded just 32mm for the first ten days of February.
Areas west of Coonamble recorded the highest falls with on-property measurements showing around 40mm at ‘Thurloo’ east of Coonamble to up to 250mm around Old Station on the Gulargambone to Quambone Road west of Bourbah crossroads.
Some property owners say that rainfall could vary more than 100mm on the same holding.
However parts of the district, primarily between Coonamble and Baradine, recorded little to no rainfall during the same period, highlighting the patchy nature of the narrow rain fronts that have passed through.
Climatologist Richard Whitaker says that the moisture deficit across the district will take substantial and repeated further falls.
“As you undoubtedly know, 2019 was the driest year on record for Australia as a whole – including much of the Central West Slopes and Plains,” Mr Whitaker said.
“However 1902 is still the driest year for Coonamble (176.6 mm) – this was the height of the notorious Federation Drought that ran from 1895 to 1902.”
In 2019 Coonamble’s Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) weather station experienced 5 months where less than 5 mm was recorded.
This contrasts sharply with the wettest year – 1129 mm in 1950.
The rain received through February so far, while filling dams and soil moisture profiles for a lucky few, has mainly delivered a good dose of optimism to the region’s residents by demonstrating that decent falls are still possible.
“Looking a bit further ahead, the Bureau outlook for March predicts equal chances of receiving above and below average rainfall,” Mr Whitaker said.
“This sounds like stating the obvious but the point to note is that the chances are not pointing more towards dry – and that’s good news.”