Australia & New Zealand: Intense water deficits will persist in Tasmania & New Caledonia

24 June 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
February 2020 indicates water deficits of varying intensity in northern Australia from the Kimberley region along the northern coast of Western Australia to the western shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Deficits are expected to be exceptional near Darwin in Top End, Northern Territory.

Intense deficits are also forecast in Western Australia’s southern tip, with deficits of lesser intensity north of Perth.

Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast along Australia’s southeastern coast from Kangaroo Island near Adelaide past Melbourne. Deficits are forecast throughout Tasmania and will reach exceptional intensity.

A block of intense surplus is forecast in the center of Australia east of Alice Springs. Moderate surpluses are forecast for a few pockets of northern Queensland, in the west near the Selwyn Range and in the east south of Townsville.

In New Caledonia, intense deficits are forecast. Deficits will also be intense in the Tasman District of New Zealand at the northern tip of South Island.

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

The forecast through August indicates, overall, mild deficits or normal conditions in Australia, a transition from widespread, exceptional deficits in prior months. However, deficits ranging from moderate to exceptional are forecast for Tasmania as well as a pocket across the strait on the mainland east of Melbourne. Moderate to severe deficits are expected on the east coast from Brisbane to Canberra. On the other side of the country, intense deficits will persist in the southern tip of Western Australia (WA), with moderate deficits near Perth. Some moderate deficits are also forecast in Top End, Northern Territory (NT); a large block of intense surplus is forecast in southeastern NT east of Alice Springs. Surpluses are forecast in a few pockets of Queensland (QLD) as well, east of the Selwyn Range and south of Townsville near the coast.

In New Zealand, deficits of varying intensity are forecast for North Island, including exceptional anomalies north of Auckland. Extreme deficits are forecast for New Caledonia.

From September through November, water conditions will continue to normalize in Australia, leaving a few areas with significant anomalies. Tasmania will continue to experience deficits though the intensity will downgrade. Likewise, deficits in WA’s southern tip will downgrade, becoming moderate to severe. In the north, moderate deficits will persist in Top End, NT but a few small, intense pockets are also forecast. Intense surpluses will persist in the center of the county east of Alice Springs, and aforementioned surpluses in QLD will also persist. Normal conditions are expected in New Zealand and deficits in New Caledonia will moderate.

The forecast for the final months – December 2019 through February 2020 – indicates moderate deficits in Tasmania and in the southern tip of WA, and moderate surpluses along the southeast coast in New South Wales.

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

IMPACTS
Flooding in the southern region of New Zealand’s North Island closed a state highway overnight this month.

Widespread flash flooding followed severe storms in Victoria, Australia, prompting several water rescues early this month.

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, imposed water restrictions for the first time in ten years last month as dam levels fell to just over 50 percent capacity, down from 96 percent just over two years ago. Watering lawns and gardens is allowed only within a six-hour window, and washing of hard surfaces is prohibited.

Drought has driven Australia’s national cattle herd to a 25-year low and depleted export value in Australian grain, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences. Export earnings are expected to drop by 4.5 percent from last year, and farm production to drop by 3 percent.

The Australian Productivity Commission warned that drought assistance to farmers is becoming large enough to create disincentives away from destocking and from properly managing a farm through climate cycling. The Commission also noted that drought assistance is “out of step” with assistance given to families who are otherwise struggling, suggesting that the cash grants have become more like industry assistance.

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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