Australia & New Zealand: Water deficits forecast for Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane

25 July 2018

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast (below) shows deficits of varying intensity covering much of eastern Australia, the far north, and southwest. Areas of intense deficit include: the southwestern tip of Western Australia, along the shore of South Australia, eastern SA, between the Darling and Lachlan Rivers in New South Wales, and Tasmania.

Severe deficits are expected in parts of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Conditions in New Zealand are forecast to be relatively normal, with some pockets of moderate deficit north of Auckland and in the south around Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, and surplus conditions near Christchurch. Significant deficits are forecast for New Caledonia.

FORECAST BREAKDOWN
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in greater detail.

As is apparent in the map series, the forecast indicates that the exceptional deficits which have dominated a vast stretch of Australia in prior months will nearly disappear, though deficits of varying severity will persist. From July through September moderate deficits, punctuated by more intense pockets, are expected across a large portion of the east and southeast, scattered across the north, and in the southwest tip of the country. Deficits are expected to be exceptional in the southwest from Busselton to Albany, and nearly as intense in pockets along the southeast coast near Adelaide and Melbourne, from Canberra to Sydney, and around Brisbane. Severe deficits are forecast for the Murray-Darling Basin. Deficits of varying intensity are expected in Tasmania. In the north, severe to exceptional deficits are forecast near Darwin and in the Daly River region of Northern Territory (NT), along the NT shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and south of Cairns in Queensland (QLD). Surpluses are forecast for Arnhem Land, NT.

Moderate to extreme surpluses are forecast in southwest Kimberley region of Western Australia (WA), but conditions of both surplus and deficit are also forecast as transitions occur. Likewise, both deficits and surpluses are forecast for the Atherton Tablelands and Mackenzie River regions of QLD.

In New Zealand, some primarily moderate deficits are forecast for southern South Island and northern North Island, and surpluses along the eastern shores from Christchurch north. Severe to extreme deficits will persist in New Caledonia.

From October through December deficits are expected to shrink considerably and moderate overall, leaving some extreme deficits in the southwest tip of WA in the Blackwood River region, and primarily moderate deficits in the southeast from Adelaide through Victoria and New South Wales (NSW). Deficits may be severe in the Riverina region of NSW. Intense deficits will continue to emerge in Tasmania, particularly in the south and the Derwent Estuary. 

Moderate surpluses will re-emerge in southwest Kimberley, WA east of Broome, while conditions slightly south will exhibit both deficit and surplus. Moderate surpluses may re-emerge in a small pocket in the Atherton Tablelands and also near the Mackenzie River in QLD. Deficits will increase slightly in New Zealand, and though deficits in New Caledonia will downgrade they will be severe.

The forecast for the final months – January through March – indicates a pattern of deficits similar to the prior three-month forecast, but conditions will moderate in Tasmania, normalize in New Zealand, and deficits will emerge on the Cape York Peninsula of northern QLD.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

IMPACTS
Drought is being blamed in part for an increase in kangaroo road kills in southeastern Australia as the starving animals venture closer to roadways in search of forage. Roadway condensation increases the grass quality on the side of the road relative to other areas, leading kangaroos to forage in relatively unusual places, according to wildlife caretakers. Collisions with "roos," as well as other animals, are a common cause of auto insurance claims in Australia, averaging between AUD $2,500 and $7,000 (USD $1,853-$5,188).

Faced with drought, Queensland graziers are sending their cattle farther than ever in search of greener pastures. Rainfall in many areas is in the bottom 10 percent of all years, says a senior climatologist with the Bureau of Meteorology, with one area reporting its driest six-month period on record. The situation in New South Wales has been equally desperate.

An Australian multinational bank is extending support measures for its drought-affected commercial business and agribusiness customers. Services include telephone counseling, temporary repayment freezes, and waiving fees related to loan restructures.

Forecasts of Australian lamb and sheep slaughters were revised upward as a result of prolonged drought conditions across the continent.

Thunderstorms battered New Zealand from June into July.  Early last month thousands of homes were without power across the North Island as high winds ripped across the island, and several inches of rain fell in mere hours causing landslides. This month, more rain and flooding caused a large landslide in Auckland and flooded roadways in Coromandel.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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