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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray
March 6 2003
The national rainfall picture over the past week and current indicators on the El Niño show cause for some optimism in almost all the worst drought-affected areas.
Commenting on the recent rain, Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Bureau of Meteorology said that the Bureau's analysis showed that most areas of Australia have received falls of more than 25mm, with large areas receiving greater than 50mm.
Local falls of greater than 100mm have occurred in parts of South Australia and western Victoria, and have been widespread in NSW, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. The rainfall has been sufficiently heavy to trigger significant flooding in some river systems (particularly in coastal northern NSW and southeast and central Queensland), while flash flooding has occurred in association with locally heavy storms in most of the mainland states.
"From a national perspective, February marks the first month since the commencement of the current drought in autumn 2002 that above-normal rainfall has been widespread," Dr Stone said. "Unfortunately, the rain fall did tend to be patchy in parts of Victoria."
The recent and continuing rainfall has been caused by a particularly active monsoon, which has seen moist tropical air reach as far south as Victoria.
This changing pattern of weather conditions is consistent with the breakdown of the El Niño event. Dr Stone said the most recent monitoring by the Bureau's National Climate Centre indicated that ocean temperatures and winds across the tropical Pacific Ocean were returning to more usual patterns. "These are positive indicators that the Bureau's current seasonal outlook for a return to more average rainfalls is 'on track'", Dr Stone said.
"Recent rainfall will be of some benefit to the agriculture sector in many areas, but remains well short of that needed to reduce the impacts of the drought and recharge large rural and urban water storages."
Daily and weekly rainfall maps can be found at the Bureau's Web site http://www1.ho.bom.gov.au/climate/austmaps/ including a weekly national analysis product available every Tuesday afternoon.
Anna Hughes (Dr Stone's office) 0408 697 055
Dr David Jones (National Climate Centre) 03 9669 4085